Lostwithiel in shock at 'tragic' family killings
Detectives are trying to establish why a former army sergeant from Cornwall who survived a devastating IRA bomb blast stabbed his two young children to death before taking his own life in a countryside bridleway.
Michael Pedersen, who grew up in Lostwithiel in South East Cornwall, was found dead next to his children Ben, seven, and Freya, six, in a tiny lane at Newton Stacey, near Andover, Hampshire, on Sunday.
Mr Pedersen, a former army sergeant in the Household Cavalry unit that was hit by an IRA nail bomb in Hyde Park in 1982, had recently split from his wife Erica, according to reports.
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Police said the "tragic" incident happened while the former serviceman was on an arranged visit with the two children from his estranged partner.
News of the tragedy shocked many living in Lostwithiel where Mr Pedersen's mother and brother still live.
Former mayor and town councillor Vic May said many remembered the bombing in 1982 and how Mr Pedersen, and his horse Sefton, had somehow survived.
"It is very, very sad," Mr May said yesterday. "I'm sure people here will give the family whatever support they need."
Mayor Gill Parsons added: "My heartfelt sympathy goes out to all the members of the family involved in this terrible tragedy."
Mr Pedersen returned to Lostwithiel a fortnight after the blast to recuperate at home with his family. He escaped with facial burns, shrapnel wounds, a six-inch nail embedded in his hand and a perforated eardrum.
His mount, Sefton, recovered from terrible injuries to become a national hero.
Detective Superintendent Tony Harris, of Hampshire Police, said the former serviceman had been visiting his children at the weekend.
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.
Their bodies were found lying behind the car at 6.15pm on Sunday by a walker.
The policeman added: "At this time it appears the children suffered fatal stab wounds and Mr Pedersen took his own life shortly afterwards."
Describing the incident, he said: "Any scene you go to with children involved is distressing for the officers. We have given them support and they continue to receive support.
"It is very tragic, it's a dreadful loss of life, one of the most tragic cases I have had to deal with."
A post-mortem examination carried out found that Mr Pedersen died as a result of a number of stab wounds to the chest, according to Hampshire Police. Post-mortem examinations on the two children are to be held later.
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. He became a symbol of the struggle against the IRA and won Horse of the Year, a prize Sgt Pedersen picked up on his behalf.