Dad Killed Children Then Himself

An IRA bomb survivor stabbed his two children to death and then stabbed himself through the heart after the violent breakdown of his marriage, an inquest has heard.

''Controlling'' Michael Pedersen, 51, wrote letters to his estranged wife Erica, his father, family and the police before he stabbed his seven-year-old son, Ben, and daughter, Freya, six.

The children, who family said Mr Pedersen had ''worshipped'' were found next to a Saab 900SE convertible car in a remote bridleway in Newton Stacey, near Andover, Hampshire, on September 30.

Less than a month before the former sergeant in the Household cavalry told his GP that he could have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. His unit was hit by an IRA nail bomb in London's Hyde Park in 1982.

The marriage had collapsed on August 25 after a row at a party and he had allegedly assaulted his wife and he was described as ''heartbroken''.

He had been served an injunction not to visit the house and had been arrested by Surrey Police but not charged and no further action was to be taken.

Giving evidence, Mrs Pedersen said she had suffered a broken arm and shoulder after her husband had pushed her and she had fell at the military reunion.

She explained she had gone to the police after she went to her GP for painkillers and admitted what had happened.

She said the doctor had told her that she had to go to the police or her children would be put on the at risk register.

Mrs Pedersen said the 10-year marriage was ''not good at all'' by the summer.

''There was constant shouting, accusing me of things. He was constantly shouting but there were quite a few quite nasty outbursts,'' she said.

She told the hearing that Mr Pedersen had walked into the police station and been arrested, and she had got a non-molestation order on September 3 and he had moved out of the house.

Mrs Pedersen said when she went back to the house in Ashford, Middlesex, it looked like it had been burgled and her chef's knife had been taken and it was used by Mr Pedersen in the killing, the court heard.

His younger brother, Robert Pedersen, told the hearing in Winchester that his sibling was ''very angry'' over the split and he had financial problems because work as an agency lorry driver had dried up.

''He said he was very angry with the manner of which it had happened. He was angry with multiple people.

''He struck me as an extremely unhappy individual but under the circumstances, okay.

''He was well upset with the police and the manner in which they had dealt with him. He felt they did not listen to him.''

Mr Pedersen added that his brother loved his children and ''worshipped the ground they walked on in every respect''.

Dog walker Rosanne Lowry spotted the car on the bridleway and after she approached it she saw a leg behind the vehicle dressed in white leggings with pink flowers.

She described the leg in a statement as being like a rag doll's.

She did not go further and called the police and said she feared her first aid skills were not adequate.

Police went to the scene and found all three behind the car. The youngsters were lying on their backs with a knife still in Ben's chest.

Mr Pedersen was lying face down with a knife underneath him.

Post-mortem examinations found the two children died from multiple stab wounds to the chest. They also both had defensive injuries to their hands and arms, the hearing was told.

Neither had been drugged before the killings and Mr Pedersen had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

Several witnesses described Mr Pedersen as liking to be in control and sometimes overbearing and a bully. But he was also described as a man who give someone the shirt off his back.

He was given a caution by police in 2004 for assaulting a man he suspected of having an affair with his wife, the inquest was told.

His father Brian told the inquest that everything was normal as he left his house on the day of the killing.

He said that his son maintained his wife had fallen over at the party and he had not assaulted her.

''He had hard breaks in his life. But what really hurt him more than anything else was when he was told to leave his house and children and Erica, who he loved in his own way. I do not think he could bear to live without any of these things.''

He added that what happened had nothing to do with Mr Pedersen's army career but what had happened afterwards.

Mr Pedersen, had recently been living in Chertsey, Surrey, had taken the children to visit his father in Andover but failed to return them to their mother by the pre-arranged time.

Recording verdicts that the children were unlawfully killed and that Mr Pedersen killed himself, Central Hampshire Coroner Grahame Short said: ''What happened that afternoon is beyond comprehension. It must have been a horrifying realisation for the children to suddenly realise what their father intended and to be attacked in the way they were.

''There can be no justification for taking the lives of two innocent children in these circumstances.

Mr Short said the loss of control had affected Mr Pedersen and that he could no longer live with his children and wife.

''Michael was angry, not just with his wife, but with the doctor, social services and Surrey Police, all of whom he believed had led him to be in the situation he found himself.''

He said that he had carried on a ''charade'' of normality but he had planned the killings and it was relevant he had taken a knife from the house and chosen such an isolated spot.

The 1982 bomb attack hit as Mr Pedersen's unit was taking part in a changing of 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 which required eight hours of surgery, the animal survived and became famous for battling against the odds.

Sefton became a symbol of the struggle against the IRA and won the Horse of the Year, a prize Mr Pedersen, who served in the army for 20 years, picked up on his behalf.