Tributes to couple as murder-suicide enquiries continue

A police officer standing guard outside the couple's home earlier this week
A police officer standing guard outside the couple's home earlier this week

SHOCKED family members have paid tribute to a couple who died in tragic circumstances on Monday.

Jennifer Phelps was found strangled at her Friston home, shortly before the body of her husband, John, was discovered at the foot of cliffs at Beachy Head.

Police are treating the incident as a murder-suicide and are not looking for anyone else in connection with their deaths.

The couple had lived at Friston Place Estate for the past four years after moving from Firle Road in Seaford.

The couple’s sons paid tribute to their parents, saying, “The family are shocked and saddened at the sudden loss of our parents.

“They were a loving couple, married for more than 40 years, were devoted to each other and to their family.

“We loved them dearly and they are sadly missed.”

The body of 64-year-old Mrs Phelps was found after a car was reported as abandoned in Crowlink Lane just before 9am on Monday.

A pile of clothes were found near the scene and evidence left in the car directed police to a house near Friston village where her body was found in the bedroom.

The body of her husband, also 64, was located by the coastguard at the bottom of cliffs near Beachy Head just before 1pm on Monday.

A post mortem showed that Mrs Phelps had died due to strangulation and her 64-year-old husband died of multiple injuries consistent with a fall from height.

Detective Inspector Carwyn Hughes, Major Crime Branch, said, “This appears to be a tragic series of events.

“Our sympathies go to members of the family.”

Scenes-of-crime officers have been conducting a fingertip search of the home the couple rented in a secluded area within Friston Forest, which is popular with walkers and tourists.

A neighbour, who knew John and Jennifer from Seaford, said, “They were a very close family.

“He always kept his children close to him. This is terrible for the family. I just really feel sympathy and sorrow.”

David Baker, Rector of East Dean and Friston Churches, added, “I am deeply saddened to hear of this tragic event.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and neighbours.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives on 0845 60 70 999, quoting Operation Stowe.