Husband sought after mother and two children found murdered

Jason Bennetto,Crime Correspondent
Wednesday 19 July 2000 00:00

The parents of a woman who had not been seen for days walked into her house to find their daughter and two grandchildren murdered.

The parents of a woman who had not been seen for days walked into her house to find their daughter and two grandchildren murdered.

Claire Austin, 31, was on the kitchen floor with one of her dogs, a poodle, beaten to death beside her, police said yesterday. She had been stabbed several times in the chest and strangled. Her children Keiran, eight, and Jade, seven, were found in separate bedrooms upstairs at the terraced house in Northampton. They had also been strangled.

Detectives are searching for Mrs Austin's husband, Philip, the father of the dead children, who was known to have had several serious arguments with his partner. He, too, has not been seen for some days.

Detective Superintendent Chris Cross said Mrs Austin's mother and stepfather were the first people on the scene after the killings. They arrived at the house on Monday afternoon. The couple had been alerted by neighbours, concerned because they had not seen the family taking their two dogs for their normal walks.

Det Supt Cross said: "These killings were horrific. The sight that met the parents was almost beyond belief. Officers who entered after them found appalling scenes in the two back bedrooms where the bodies of the two children lay."

He said his major line of inquiry was to find Mr Austin, 31, a fork-lift truck driver. He had not been at work for days and his car was missing.

The detective said that on previous occasions Mr Austin had left the family home for days at a time but had eventually returned. He said the separations had been the result of family disagreements and Mr Austin had been known to travel extensively while he was away.

The couple had been married for eight years and they had recently returned from a holiday in Spain. Mrs Austin was a part-time home help. Her natural father lives in Holland and has been traced and told.

Keiran and Jade attended Standens Barn Lower School and the headteacher, who said both children were popular pupils, had to break the news to pupils and staff.

Det Supt Cross added: "While we are still trying to build up a picture of Claire from her work, neighbours and the family, it is clear she took pride in her children and home."

Post-mortem examinations yesterday established that Mrs Austin died from stab wounds to her chest and strangulation. There were other undisclosed injuries.

Kieren and Jade were both strangled with ligatures.

A large kitchen knife was found at the scene although police have not yet confirmed whether it was the murder weapon.

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