Woman, 24, and parents, in 50s, die in suspected murder-suicide house fire
A young woman and her parents have died in a suspected murder-suicide, after a blaze tore through their home on a quiet Hertfordshire residential road.
Caroline and Gary Walker, aged 50 and 57, and daughter Katie, 24, have been named locally and were described as a ‘really nice’ and ‘quiet’ family, with the incident being described as ‘very out of the ordinary’.
The three were pronounced dead at the property on Sunday after thick plumes of smoke were seen coming from the windows as the fire tore through their home. Emergency services were called shortly after 12.30pm by a neighbour who lives across the road from the family in Hemel Hempstead and saw the smoke.
But when paramedics arrived nothing could be done to save the family.
Hertfordshire Police announced on Monday they had launched a murder investigation and said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
A witness at the scene on Monday afternoon said he had seen police removing what looked like a lamp, around four feet tall, from the house, and loading it into an unmarked police van.
The family’s neighbour, Peter Downer, said he was in shock at the incident as he paid tribute to the Walkers.
He said that Mr Walker had been a draughtsman for an engineering firm, and he believed that Caroline had previously worked at Waitrose, while daughter Katie worked with animals.
The 67-year-old said: ‘They were my friends. They were such a nice family. Very quiet, but very nice. They were just proper, really. They don’t drink or anything like that – this is very out of the ordinary.
‘They didn’t have any enemies. I wouldn’t have thought it could be one of the family members – but you can never tell these days. I just can’t believe what’s happened. It’s really weird, what’s gone on.’
Peter, a retired car valeter, added that he got ‘straight on the phone’ to the emergency services when he spotted the smoke coming from the family’s upstairs bathroom window.
He said: ‘I didn’t see any fire, it was just smoke. But if you see smoke, it relates to fire, so I just got straight on the phone to the fire brigade.’
Police and forensics remained at the scene on Monday. There was no sign of fire damage to the exterior of the home, except for a small, black smoke mark outside the bathroom window.
Detective Inspector Iain MacPherson said: ‘Police are following all lines of enquiry and considering all possible motives.
‘We are treating this as an isolated incident. Our early inquiries have led us to believe there is no threat to the wider community.
‘We are investigating three suspicious deaths and are not looking for anyone else in connection to this incident at this time.’
He added: ‘Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the three people who have sadly died’.