New twist in children's hotel death tragedy

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The Independent Online

The investigation into the deaths of two children in a Spanish hotel room took a dramatic twist today when it was disclosed they were the son and daughter of an alleged paedophile.

Rebecca Smith, five, and her brother Daniel, aged 11 months, were found yesterday in the resort of Lloret de Mar in Spain's Costa Brava.

Their mother Lianne, 43, was arrested on suspicion of murder by Spanish police while their father Martin Smith appeared before magistrates in Carlisle today accused of child sex offences.

Smith, 45, originally from North Shields, had been one of Britain's most wanted men up until his arrest by Spanish police earlier this month.

His wife and Rebecca had been reported missing from the Staffordshire area since December 2007.

Smith, who was extradited yesterday from Spain, faced 13 charges today of child sex offences said to have been committed in the Cumbria area between 1995 and 2005.

He was remanded in custody to reappear at Carlisle Crown Court on June 7.

A Cumbria Police spokeswoman said: "During the court hearing it was disclosed that Spanish police have informed Cumbria Constabulary that Martin Smith's wife, 43-year-old Lianne Smith, has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of his two children Rebecca, five, and Daniel, 11 months, in Spain.

"Lianne and Rebecca had been missing from the Staffordshire area since December 2007."

Martin Smith had been put on a list of most wanted suspects thought to be hiding out in Spain by crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers.

He allegedly jumped bail in 2008 while facing charges of rape of a child under 16, gross indecency with a girl under the age of 16, indecent assault of a girl under 16 and attempted rape of a girl under 16.

His wife was detained yesterday - the day of his extradition - after the children's bodies were found in Room 101 in the Hotel Miramar.

Sources confirmed he was told about the deaths of the children last night.

It was reported that she had been worried the Spanish authorities would take her children away.

Mrs Smith reportedly phoned reception shortly before 2pm and emergency services were called but efforts to save the youngsters failed.

Sky News reported that it had learned that a sign had been put on the door of her hotel room shortly before the alarm was raised which read: "Do not disturb, my kids are ill."

Sources close to the investigation told El Mundo newspaper that police believed the youngsters were suffocated because their bodies showed no external signs of injury.

Some reports said a plastic bag had been used to suffocate the children.

The results of post-mortem examinations are expected today or tomorrow.

After her arrest Mrs Smith was taken to her hotel room by police and an investigating judge to help them reconstruct events leading up to the children's deaths, El Mundo reported.

She was then transferred to a police station at Blanes, near Lloret, for questioning.

Spanish police said there had been no blood at the scene of the children's death or any signs of violence.

A bouquet of flowers had been laid outside the Hotel Miramar with a note attached saying: "RIP little ones. God has gained two angels xxx."

Two pink teddy bears had been placed alongside the flowers.

Guests at the seafront hotel described their shock at what had happened.

Andres Sonajalg, 49, from Tallinn, Estonia, said he had seen the children's mother at breakfast but that nothing about her seemed out of the ordinary.

He said: "I went out in the morning and when I came back the hotel was surrounded by police and ambulance teams.

"It was terrible. My wife and I were really sorry we couldn't do anything to help her and the kids but we didn't know anything was wrong."

His wife, Siiri Sonajalg, 47, said: "It was very shocking. There were so many police here and we were wondering what was happening.

"The hotel and police didn't tell us anything.

"I didn't sleep very well last night because I was just wondering what the mother was feeling when she woke up that morning.

"I feel very sad. I keep thinking about what happened."