Bodies found in hunt for florist and daughter

By Tom Palmer,Press Association
Wednesday 18 March 2009 15:30

Police searching for a missing celebrity florist and her disabled daughter found two bodies today.

Jude Richmond and nine-year-old Millie Whitehead-Richmond went missing on Sunday evening.

They were last seen at their home in Station Road, South Cerney, Gloucestershire, at 6.30pm.

Police searching a lake at the back of their home said divers had recovered the bodies of a young girl and an adult female.

A Gloucestershire Police spokeswoman said it was too early to say if the deaths were suspicious.

Officers are waiting to speak to Mrs Richmond's husband, Nick, who was flying back to the UK from Australia today.

Police believe Mrs Richmond, 41, who ran a florists business with clients who included royalty and celebrities, was vulnerable and possibly depressed.

Millie's father, Neil Whitehead, from London, earlier made a fresh appeal for the pair to contact home and said he understood that Mrs Richmond was having issues with her marriage.

The 54-year-old described his daughter, who had cerebral palsy, as "magical" and said that, when he spoke to his former partner the day before she went missing, she was "calm and sensible".

He said: "My daughter is one of the most charismatic, fun-loving, humorous, attractive girls you could hope to meet - she is almost magical."

Officers were carrying out searches along Mrs Richmond's favourite walks and in a nearby lake, involving divers, a search dog and a police helicopter.

The police said a mystery man was seen with Mrs Richmond and Millie on Sunday, with his arms around her affectionately.

He was white, in his 40s, around 6ft and of large build with broad shoulders and dark blond spiky hair.

Appeals for information have led to around 30 calls from members of the public offering information and assistance.

The police divers were scouring a lake immediately behind Mrs Richmond's home. They were searching an area approximately 25 feet wide and about 15 feet into the lake.

A white tent has been erected at the site and the windows of the family's semi-detached property have been covered with what appears to be plastic.

The divers are based on what appears to be a shared jetty between the two properties. The house is one of a few large properties situated on the lake.

There are more than 100 lakes in the area, each overlooked by large new development properties and a number of yacht clubs, gastro pubs and restaurants.

Inspector Owen Hughes said the force's sympathies were with the family and friends of Mrs Richmond and Millie.

He said the first body, that of a young girl, was found at 10.20am today, and the body of an adult female was discovered at 11.30 in the lake directly behind Mrs Richmond's home.

Formal identification of the two bodies is unlikely to be carried out until tomorrow when a post-mortem is also likely to take place.

Mr Hughes said: "There are numerous lines to this investigation, we are not ruling anything out at this stage.

"We have officers dedicated to looking after loved ones. Our sympathies are with the family at this time."

Police said they were not issuing any specific witness appeal today and were keeping an open mind.

The bodies were taken away by hearse at about 2.15pm.

Neil Whitehead is believed to be staying in a hotel nearby.

Nick Richmond arrived at Heathrow Airport at around 1.30pm where he was briefed by police officers on the discovery.

There is still a heavy police presence on the estate with residents only being allowed access.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments