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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pictured: The father who slaughtered his wife and two sons, nine and one... then calmly 'washed his car' before killing himself

-Richard Smith stabbed his wife and sons Ben, nine, and Aaron, one
-He died of smoke inhalation after setting fire to a bedroom where the bodies were found
-Police believe family died in the early hours of Saturday morning
-Nobody is being sought in connection with the deaths

By Chris Brooke and Claire Ellicott

Family: Richard Smith, pictured, killed his wife Clair, also pictured and children Ben, nine, and Aaron, one, (centre) at the family home in Pudsey, West Yorkshire. Their bodies were found on Sunday afternoon

This is the first picture of a family slaughtered by a shop-fitter who then casually washed his car before taking his own life.

Richard Smith, 37, was seen cleaning the vehicle outside the family's detached home early on Sunday morning - a day after he is believed to have killed his wife Clair, 36, Ben, nine, and one-year-old Aaron.

Today, the first picture of the family has been released - and it shows the four seemingly happy in a touching portrait.

It comes as it emerged Mrs Smith and her two sons had suffered stab wounds. Mrs Smith died from a single stab wound to her chest, as did Aaron. Ben suffered a stab wound to the chest but died from suffocation.

All four bodies were found by relatives laid on the double bed of the main bedroom of their £180,000 home in Pudsey, West Yorkshire on Sunday afternoon.

The bedroom was gutted by fire and Mr Smith is believed to have died of smoke inhalation a day after the deaths.

It is thought that he lit the blaze to kill himself. A mattress was propped against the bedroom window to stop smoke escaping.

Det Supt Paul Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police's Homicide and Major Enquiry Team (HMET) who is leading the investigation, was not sure of the exact time of death, but said: 'Ben's advent calendar had not been opened on the Saturday morning, suggesting it happened either late Friday night, over night into the Saturday.'

The last confirmed sighting of the family was at 11pm on the Friday when they had left a function together in a taxi from the nearby Pudsey St Lawrence Cricket Club.

Tragic: Ben Smith, nine, was pictured in his local paper a month ago dressed up in a Pudsey Bear outift as part of a charity day alongside his classmates at Greenside Primary School in Pudsey, West Yorks

Friends lay flowers and read tributes next to a police cordon at the scene while Det Supt Paul Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police's Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, right, addresses the media this morning

Members of the public look at the tributes left at the police cordon in Pudsey, Leeds, where the four were found dead on Sunday afternoon

Speaking at a press conference held at HMET headquarters in Leeds, Det Supt Taylor confirmed the family had been found by a friend and family member.

He said: 'I cannot begin to imagine what they (the families) have been through during the last 48 hours and the sympathy of the enquiry team rests with them at this time of year.

'As we have previously stated we are not looking for anyone else in connection with this enquiry and our role is to now establish the facts leading up to the tragic event that has ended the lives of four people and a seemingly happy family.

'That information is then passed to the coroner, who will make a decision around the circumstances of the deaths.'

In a statement presented to the press conference, the parents of Clair Smith, Alan and Norma Robinson, said: 'Clair was an exceptional person, loving and caring to everyone.

'She was a loving mum, her children were her life, and everything centred around her family and home.

'She was our daughter and our best pal. We cannot imagine what caused this tragedy.'

Distraught: Cheryl Heights (left) and Sara Turnbull bring flowers to lay at the street in Pudsey, Leeds, where the family of four was found

Tributes: The bouquets were laid outside the house which was cordoned off with police tape. The note on flowers is from friends Sara and Dean Turnbull

Family friend Sarah Wilson and an unidentified youth leave after placing flowers near the house

The fire left the outside walls of the house singed brown and police initially mistook this for evidence of dangerous chemicals inside the building. They sealed off the house and surrounding area until they determined the fire was responsible for the stains.

Neighbours said they knew Smith, a shopfitting expert, as a family man who had many friends and was coach of the local under-nines boys football team, which starred his son Ben.

Smith’s cousin Garry Tempest, 37, said the murder suicide theory was unbelievable.

Investigation: Forensic teams work at the house today after the family was found in a bedroom on Sunday

Cul-de-sac: Police initially sealed off the house fearing a chemical leak

‘They were the perfect family and Richard thought the world of the boys,’ he said. ‘I have known Richard all my life.

‘He was football mad. I find it very hard to believe what he is said to have done.
‘There has never been anything bad between them, no arguing or anything.

‘As far as money worries are concerned, I can’t see them having any as he had a good job and she had a good job.’

Close friend Dean Turnbull and his wife Sara saw the family last Monday when they visited their house for a cup of tea and a chat.

After laying a bouquet at the scene, he said: ‘I have just found out what has happened and felt I had to come. I can’t understand what has happened.

‘Richard was superb, he was a brilliant man. They were a lovely family with everything to live for.

‘They seemed to have no concerns and were looking forward to Christmas and enjoying their new home.

‘Richard was showing me plans he had for doing up the house. I am at a loss – they seemed to have no problems.’

Tragedy: Neighbours described Smith as a 'great guy' who appeared to have had no problems

Tragedy: The bodies of two adults and two boys were found in the property

Police forensic work continued at the house yesterday while post-mortem examinations were carried out.

Detective Superintendent Paul Taylor, who is leading the inquiry, appealed for information to solve the mystery yesterday.

He added: ‘A lot of details are not known. I can confirm this is a murder investigation but at this stage we are not looking for anyone else.’

The bodies of all four family members are believed to have been charred by the slow-burning fire. The couple had been married for 13 years and Mrs Smith worked part-time as an accounts manager.

They moved from an end-of-terrace house to the detached property last May. Their youngest child was born just over a year ago and Ben shared his father’s love of football and Leeds United.

Sealed off: Emergency workers in protective clothing prepare to enter the houseon Sunday night. Officers initially thought the family might have died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning

Under watch: An officer guards the property in the aftermath of the grim discovery

David McLean, another friend and neighbour, said: ‘They were a lovely, typical, generous, warm-hearted family. They couldn’t have been better friends.’

Friend Sarah Wilson said: ‘Such beautiful little boys both of them. I can’t imagine what’s made this happen, I really can’t.

‘I just can’t believe it. There was just no inkling that anything like this would happen, nothing.’

A number of friends left floral tributes. One distraught woman was in floods of tears and a note she left read: ‘Why? Why? Why? I can’t believe it was only a few weeks I was holding Aaron and that I will never see you and your beautiful boys again. It didn’t have to end like this for any of you xxx.’

It is thought that the concerns of one of Ben’s friends may have led to family being contacted and the alarm being raised.

The youngster had been trying to phone Ben and went to his house when there was no answer.

‘There was no answer at the door so he tried his mobile again and heard it ringing inside the house,’ said a family friend.

A neighbour at the couple’s former home said of Mr Smith: ‘He was a really lovely man. I have no idea how this could have happened, I don’t want to think about it as it’s just so awful.’

Her son would regularly play in the street with Ben, a popular youngster at the local primary.



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