Head shocked by children's deaths

Herald Series: A police officer guarding the closed off bridleway in Newton Stacey where the bodies of a man and two children were found A police officer guarding the closed off bridleway in Newton Stacey where the bodies of a man and two children were found

The headteacher of the school attended by the two children killed by their IRA bomb survivor father has spoken of her shock at their deaths.

The bodies of Michael Pedersen, 51, his son, Ben, seven, and six-year-old daughter, Freya, were found next to a Saab 900SE convertible car in a tiny lane in Newton Stacey, near Andover, Hampshire, on Sunday.

Mr Pedersen, a former sergeant in the Household Cavalry unit which was hit by an IRA nail bomb in London's Hyde Park in 1982, had recently split from his wife, Erica, who lives in Ashford, Middlesex.

Caroline Dyer, headteacher of Ashford Church of England Primary School, said: "We are all deeply shocked and saddened at this news. The school is in contact with the relevant authorities but, as this is currently the subject of a police investigation, we are unable to make any further comment."

Mr Pedersen, who also had two children from a previous relationship, wrote on Facebook on August 31 that he had split from his second wife, Erica, 43, with whom he ran a haulage business called High Road Logistics. He said: "Worst day of my life. Sadly have split with Erica am absolutely distraught. Yes a few problems in every day life none insurmountable, can't believe I am supposed to have pushed her at the weekend - too untrue for words."

Then on September 1 he added: "Question. Why is it that when you ask someone who is hiding something, why they acted as they did they maintain they were 'drunk', yet when something dreadful happens they maintain they weren't and try to assassinate your good name instead?"

Detective Superintendent Tony Harris, of Hampshire Police, said the "tragic" incident happened while the former serviceman was on an arranged visit with his two children by his estranged spouse. Mr Pedersen, who had recently been living in Chertsey, Surrey, had taken Ben and Freya to visit his father in Andover but failed to return them to their mother by the pre-arranged time of 5pm.

Surrey Police said the case was being referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as the force have had previous contact with the Pedersen family.

The children's maternal grandfather, William Clifford, 67, from Buckinghamshire, said the family were "extremely distressed" by the deaths. Speaking outside his daughter's home in Ashford, he added: "We are obviously devastated and what we would ask is that you respect our privacy in this matter."

The 1982 bomb attack hit as Mr Pedersen's unit was taking part in a Changing the Guard ceremony. Four soldiers and seven horses were killed in the explosion, which left Mr Pedersen's horse, Sefton, seriously injured. Despite 34 separate wounds that required eight hours of surgery, the animal survived and became famous for battling against the odds.

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