Murder-suicide theory after bodies found

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POLICE are treating the death of a Friston couple as a likely murder suicide after the body of a woman was found at her home, shortly before her husband’s body was recovered from the foot of Beachy Head.

The incident unfolded on Monday when a car was reported as abandonded in Crowlink Lane just before 9am.

A pile of clothes were found near the scene and evidence left in the car directed police to a house near Friston village where the body of a 64-year-old woman was found in the bedroom.

It is understood the couple were John and Jennifer Phelps from Old Willingdon Road. They had previously lived in Firle Road, Seaford.

A shocked former neighbour in Seaford told the Gazette, “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.”

The couple are believed to have two sons among their children.

The cause of Mrs Phelps’ death is not yet known. The body of her 64-year-old husband was located by the coastguard at the bottom of cliffs near Beachy Head just before 1pm on Monday.

A post mortem was due to take place yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.

Christopher Wells, of Crowlink Lane, said he was shocked to hear of the news and neighbour Ann Price added, “I saw a police helicopter and a police car on Monday afternoon.

“It’s all very sad.”

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.”

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

“We are investigating it as a likely murder suicide and are not looking for anyone else at this time.

“Our sympathies go to members of the family.”

District Commander for Wealden, Chief Inspector Dick Coates, added, “This is a very sad event and members of my local neighbourhood team will be on hand in the Friston area over the coming days if any members of the public would like to pass on information or discuss local issues with them.”

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