A father killed his three children before taking his own life in woodland, days after he disappeared with them.
Ceri Fuller, 35, is thought to have stabbed his 12-year-old son Sam and daughters Rebecca, eight, and Charlotte, seven, before falling to his death from an 80ft cliff in what police described as a “tragic family situation”.
His distraught wife, Ruth, the children’s mother, was being comforted by relatives.
All four bodies were found at the bottom of a disused quarry and may have lain there for days. Police said Mr Fuller’s red Landrover Freelander had been parked since last Thursday at the entrance to the woodland in Pontesbury, near Shrewsbury, 300 yards from where the discovery was made.
Detectives believe he travelled with the children from the family home in Milkwall, Glos, less than 24 hours before, setting out either earlier that morning or late the previous night.
There were sightings of the vehicle in Leominster and Welshpool during the day, before it was parked at the beauty spot where the bodies were found, known as Poles Coppice.
Raymond Woodhouse, 74, who lives nearby, saw the car drive up on Thursday afternoon at 2.30pm. “A man got out and walked off towards the quarry,” he said.
“I didn’t see any children or anyone with him and didn’t think any more about it because it’s a busy spot with people walking dogs and taking their kids there.
“I noticed today that the car was still there so I noted the registration number and dropped it off at the police station.
“They checked the number and two officers suddenly came running out in front of me.”
He said that the woods were busy over the weekend and that he was surprised no one had spotted the bodies before.
Det Ch Insp Neil Jamieson said the four bodies were found “within 30 or 40 yards of each other”.
“We are conducting a murder investigation and at this stage we are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident,” he said. “Although the investigation is in its early stages, it appears to be a tragic family situation.”
Post-mortem examinations were due to be carried out today and tomorrow. Detectives refused to speculate on whether the children were still alive when the car reached the woods.
Residents of Pontesbury said Mr Fuller must have known about the quarry as it was “not the sort of place you stumble across”. It would have been accessible by climbing over waist-high wire fencing.
Mr Fuller was a supervisor at Glatfelter paper mill in Lydney, Glos, where he had worked for 10 years. He went to university in Huddersfield and Samuel, his first child with his future wife, Ruth Tocknell, was born in the West Yorkshire town.
Daughters Rebecca and Charlotte followed after the couple moved back to the Gloucestershire area where both were originally from, marrying in 2009.
They moved into their semi-detached home in Milkwall, near Coleford in the Forest of Dean, in July 2011.
All three children had gone to St John’s Church of England Primary School. Samuel went on to Lakers School, also in Coleford. Jan Wagstaff, head teacher at St John’s, said Becka and Charlie were “absolutely delightful” and Sam always had a “ready smile”.
A former neighbour of Mr Fuller described him as a “quiet and reserved” man. “We’re in shock,” he said.
A neighbour at their current address described how Mrs Fuller was pacing up and outside her home on the day her husband and children went missing.
Mr Fuller’s mother, Geraldine, 64, and stepfather, Geoffrey Petheram, who live in nearby Blakeney, were too upset to comment. Mrs Fuller’s parents, Anne and Ronald Tocknell, of Lydney, were believed to be with their daughter.