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Sunday 14 July 2002 14 July 2002
suicide suspected in car deaths
The deaths of a father and his four children found in a blazing car were tonight being treated by police as a possible murder and suicide.
Scotland Yard said the bodies were discovered in a silver Nissan Primera on an industrial estate in South Crescent, West Ham, east London.
Neighbours of the man - who was estranged from his wife - and his children - two girls aged 12 and nine and two boys aged seven and six - said they were devastated by the tragedy.
Grace Omia, 31, said she was a friend of the dead man, who was named Claude and had come to Britain from the Congo in Africa.
Laying flowers at the scene, she wept: "He loved his family so much I don't know what was the motive. We are all in shock. I saw him last month and he seemed OK. There were no problems that I knew of with his wife.
"He was a quiet, calm, happy person, I don't understand how a lovely man can do something like this."
Her sister, Cissy Owschi, said: "I knew the father but my sister was closest to them. It's a tragedy, I don't know what has happened."
Post mortem examinations on the dead man and his children were due to be carried out later today. Police said their identities had yet to be confirmed.
Detective Superintendent Jim Osbourne from the Serious Crime Group told a press conference at Forest Gate police station: "Murder and suicide are a potential line of inquiry.
"The early indications are that the man found is native to this part of London. His estranged partner has been informed of the death. The man's marital history and custody arrangements will be one aspect of our inquiries.
"There has been an intense fire, the vehicle and the bodies are badly burnt but it is too early to say the cause of the fire and the cause of death."
Forensics experts and a Home Office pathologist spent the day examining the scene. Officers were also working to retrieve CCTV images from the area.
The bodies were removed late in the afternoon in a private ambulance with blacked out windows. The car was taken away shortly afterwards. The headlights were burnt out and fire damage was visible on the front and back bumpers.
Mr Osbourne said emergency services were called to the scene at 12.45am after a witness passing through the area saw a car alight.
"We hope there are more witnesses but it is an isolated spot. The only people I would expect to find there at that time of night are courting couples, night workers and delivery companies," he added.
Anyone with information should contact the incident room on 0208 345 3985.