EastEnders actress and her two children died from head and neck injuries, say Scotland Yard – as on-the-run boyfriend is pictured arriving in Ghana
An ex-EastEnders actress and her two young children whose bodies were found decomposing in the back garden of their family home died of head and neck injuries, Scotland Yard revealed tonight.
The bodies of Sian Blake, 43, and her two sons – Zachary, eight, and Amon, four – were found buried in the garden of their home in Erith, Kent, 20 days after they disappeared on December 13.
Police said tonight that all three died of head and neck injuries, as they continue to hunt Ms Blake’s boyfriend Arthur Simpson-Kent who fled to Africa after being questioned by police.
Earlier today, the 48-year-old was pictured arriving in Ghana as it emerged that Ms Blake’s family had accused him of domestic violence in the weeks leading up to the killings.
In a statement this evening, Scotland Yard confirmed post-mortem examinations had now been carried out on all three murder victims – after their bodies were uncovered by police on Tuesday.
However, the Met revealed that they waited two days to dig up the bodies – after sniffer dogs first alerted officers to an ‘area of interest within the garden’ on Sunday.
In a statement, the force said: ‘On the afternoon of Sunday, January 4, the family home was assessed by forensic specialists and a full forensic search was started. This included the use of police sniffer dogs.
‘The police dogs indicated areas of interest within the garden.
‘On the morning of Tuesday, January 6, police excavated the garden leading to the discovery of the bodies. Significant attempts had been made to conceal the bodies.’
Confirming that formal identification had now occurred, the force added: ‘Sian’s family are aware and are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.’
Earlier, it emerged that Mr Simpson-Kent was caught on camera at Kotoka Airport in the Ghanaian capital Accra on December 19, three days after he was questioned by police following Ms Blake’s disappearance.
He is believed to have flown to the country of his birth in West Africa via Glasgow and Amsterdam.
The picture, acquired by ITV News, was released today as Ms Blake’s sister said the former soap star was set to leave Mr Simpson-Kent, and called for him to be ‘brought back to justice.’
One of Ms Blake’s relatives contacted the NSPCC on December 16, prompting the charity to pass on information received to the Metropolitan Police and Bexley Social Services.
Scotland Yard confirmed that the information given to the force ‘expressed concerns about Ms Blake’s health and the nature of the relationship between her and Mr Simpson-Kent’.
It is not clear what prompted the call on the 16th, or why there was a gap of three days before police launched their missing persons appeal, which described Ms Blake as ‘high risk’.
The sister of Sian Blake said the former EastEnders actress (left) was set to leave her boyfriend Arthur-Simpson-Kent (right), who suspected of killing her as she called for him to be ‘brought back to justice’
Today, Miss Blake’s sister Ava (pictured left with their mother, Pansy) said Simpson-Kent should be ‘brought back to justice’
Officers are still searching for Mr Simpson-Kent, 48, who was last seen on December 16 – two days after Miss Blake was reported missing by her aunt on December 14.
He is thought to have arrived in Ghana on a KLM flight and a time stamp on the photograph shows 9.01pm. There is a daily flight from Amsterdam to Accra, which is scheduled to land at 8pm local time. It is not known if he is still in Ghana.
Police officers spoke to Mr Simpson-Kent at the family home on December 16. Last night, a neighbour who spotted the interview said: ‘The police were standing outside for almost ten minutes talking to Arthur outside.
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‘He was very animatedly and waving his arms and it looked to me like he didn’t want them to come into the house. I just thought it was quite strange because if police turned up at my door with something serious I would have invited them in.
‘Eventually they did go into the house but I’m not sure how long they were there as I had to leave.’
The actress, who played home-wrecker Frankie Pierre in the BBC soap in the mid-1990s, and her sons were last seen during a visit to relatives in Leyton, east London, on December 13.
Three days later, after the NSPCC raised the alarm, police spoke to Mr Simpson-Kent at the family home. After the visit, Ms Blake and the two boys were officially registered as missing.
Her silver-beige Renault Scenic was found dumped in Calvert Avenue in Bethnal Green, east London, on January 3. It is not known who abandoned it there.
Scotland Yard has refused to confirm reports that Mr Simpson-Kent has fled to Africa, but a spokesman said: ‘This continues to be one line of investigation and for operational reasons we are not prepared to discuss this further at this stage.’
Ava Blake said she believes Mr Simpson-Kent was responsible for the deaths, and says the family are ‘angry’
TIMELINE: DIARY OF THE TRAGEDY
December 13: Sian Blake was last seen loading bags into the boot of her car near her mother’s home in Leyton, east London, with her sons Zachary, eight, and Amon, four.
December 14: Neighbours saw her partner Arthur Simpson-Kent at their family home in Erith, south-east London.
December 16: Ms Blake and her family were reported missing to police although it is unlear by who. Officers spoke to Mr Simpson-Kent after being alerted to concerns for his welfare by an ‘agency’. This was the last sighting of him.
December 18: Neighbours claimed police broke into the family home in Erith after visiting it every day.
December 19: Mr Simpson-Kent was described as a ‘high-risk missing person’ to the public by police.
Before Christmas: Text messages were sent from Ms Blake’s phone claiming she wanted to be along with her children for her ‘last’ Christmas. The texts were reportedly sent from areas in Colchester and Cambridge, places visited by Mr Simpson-Kent before he headed to Glasgow.
December 31: Officers launched a missing persons’ appeal for Ms Blake and her sons.
January 3: Ms Blake’s car, a silver Renault Scenic registration number SM54 FUO was found abandoned in Calvert Avenue, Bethnal Green, east London.
January 4: Police announced that murder squad detectives have taken over the investigation
January 5: Forensics officers arrived at the family home in Erith, south-east London. They dig up the back garden and discover three bodies.
January 6: It was revealed that Mr Simpson-Kent had reportedly fled to Ghana, via Scotland and Amsterdam at some point since December 16.
January 7: Ms Blake’s sister Ava calls for Mr Simpson-Kent to be ‘brought back to justice’. A photograph emerges of Mr Simpson-Kent arriving in Ghana on December 19.
Speaking today, Ms Blake’s sister Ava, 51, said Mr Simpson-Kent was a triple killer, and should be ‘brought back to justice’.
She also said that Ms Blake was planning on leaving Mr Simpson-Kent over Christmas, and described his as controlling.
Speaking at Scotland Yard’s headquarters, a tearful Ava Blake said: ‘Unfortunately I believe Arthur was responsible.
‘I want him to face justice and explain why. It’s my nephews more than anything. My brother is angry. My cousins are angry.
‘They are angry about Sian, but the boys have devastated us. We have lost a generation. We can never replace them.
‘I want him to be brought back to justice. He’ll have to answer to the courts of this country and to God eventually.
‘I don’t know what is going through his mind.’
She broke down in tears as she paid tribute to her sister.
‘I have lost my sister and my nephews. I’m not going to see them grow up,’ she said.
‘I’m going to miss Sian. She was my sister and someone I loved. I was proud of her as an actress. I just wanted the best for her and my nephews.
‘We always had hope because of certain things we were told by police. That hope was always there.’
Ms Blake vanished with her two children Zachary, left, eight, and Amon, four, after packing the boot of her car
Route: Mr Simpson-Kent is believed to have travelled from his south-east London home to Ghana via Glasgow and Amsterdam. Ghanaian security sources reportedly said he arrived in the African country on December 19
Yesterday, Scotland Yard referred its handling of the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will focus on the way in which officers handled the early part of the investigation.
Other members of Ms Blake’s grieving family have demanded answers as to why police did not find the bodies when they searched the bungalow on December 18 – a day before the grim discovery was made in the garden.
They also expressed their anger that it took Scotland Yard more than two weeks to issue a public missing persons appeal for the actress – who was seriously ill with motor neurone disease – and the two youngsters.
The case was taken over by homicide detectives on Monday, before the three unidentified bodies were found the next day at the Erith address.
But Ava said she did not have any criticism of the police investigation.
Asked whether she believed police did everything they could, Ms Blake replied: ‘Yes I do.’
Ms Blake said her sister had planned to leave Mr Simpson-Kent over the Christmas period.
She said: ‘In the last year I have to admit my sister was not the vivacious, happy person she once was. She was a lot more quiet.
Police outside Ms Blake’s home this morning as the investigations into the deaths continue
‘She had asked to come back home and we said yes, so we really tried to plan on getting her to move back home.
‘She said she would come back, sort of Christmas week, and after Christmas they would arrange about selling the property she lived in.
‘In our opinion the relationship had already come to an end but she hadn’t quite made that break or that decision to leave Arthur.
‘She may not have told him. She also wanted to do it in a way that caused the minimum amount of discomfort to him as well.
‘She didn’t want to throw him out on the street but give him time to find somewhere else to live. That was the only point she was wavering on.’
Ms Blake had motor neurone disease – a fatal, rapidly progressing illness which affects the brain and spinal cord – and was reportedly looking ‘very frail’ before she vanished.
Previously an unknown actress, her big break came when she was introduced as soul singer Frankie in EastEnders in June 1996 by series producer Jane Harris.
She was in the BBC soap for 56 episodes, reportedly quitting because of hostility from viewers towards her manipulative character.
The performer, who later worked as a sign language tutor, also appeared in episodes of The Bill, Casualty, Doctors and Skins, and was the voice of Yugiri in 2015 video game Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward.
Flowers, balloons and teddy bears were left outside the house in memory of the actress and her children
Police and search teams who had been combing the garden on Ms Blake’s home had gone today
Ava said her sister had told their mother, Pansy, that she wanted to get out of her relationship ‘a long time ago’.
Texts sent from Ms Blake’s phone claimed that she wanted to be alone with her children for her last Christmas. However police are now examining allegations the texts were actually sent by Mr Simpson-Kent to dampen any suspicion.
Ava added that she suspected the texts had not been written by her sister.
‘The first part of the text, I believe my sister may have written that,’ she said.
‘But the rest of the wording and other texts my family received, they were not my sister.
‘We don’t use text lingo. We write full sentences. Starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop. People always teased us but we did that.
‘The way she signed off was to write ‘Sian’ – her full name – and cousins had nicknames and we would use them.
‘The ones that came through were very poor grammatically, bad spelling, not my sister.’
On Mr Simpson-Kent’s Facebook profile he claims to have family ties to Cape Coast, in Ghana, in Africa
Ava said the texts alleged to be from her sister said she was going away ‘for a few weeks’, then it became ‘a few months’.
‘No way,’ she said. ‘We’re a big family and very, very close. She would never say that. She would never not speak to us.’
She added that before the bodies were found, the family were still holding out hope that they would hear from Ms Blake,
She said her sister had planned to spend Christmas at the family home with her two sons but Mr Simpson-Kent ‘wasn’t very happy’ about it. She also believed Mr Simpson-Kent was monitoring her sister’s calls.
Ava said Mr Simpson-Kent ‘seemed to be alone’ and did not make her family feel ‘welcome’.
‘He was my nephews’ primary care giver’, she said. ‘I still can’t believe, not only that they’re dead, but that he was capable of killing his children.
‘My sister, I can understand up to a point. Maybe there was an argument – this is what I would like to believe – and maybe she has fallen and hit her head and he panicked. I could accept that and still not like it.
‘I don’t know how my nephews died. But the fact he could kill his own two children is beyond belief. That is something I’ll never understand.
‘They adored him and called him ‘my papa’. I would never believe in a million years, or in my lifetime, that it could happen to us and my nephews.’
Ava said she had never believed her sister’s health was a factor in her disappearance.
‘The issue was her relationship with Arthur,’ she said. ‘It had nothing to do with her health. She would never harm my nephews or herself. Sian is not that kind of person.’
Neighbours of Ms Blake, today described her as being ‘withdrawn’ in the lead up to her disappearance.
At the scene today one police officer was standing guard outside the home, while floral tributes, as well as teddy bears, chocolates and balloons have also been left at the steps of the property by well-wishers.
One of the balloons read: ‘Amon, we will miss your smiley face, R.I.P.’
One neighbour recalled Ms Blake suddenly wearing dark glasses, which she believes was to cover a black eye.
Kim Parry, 34, a stay-at-home mother who lives two doors away from the family said: ‘She used to be happy.
‘She used to say hello and so would the children, but it changed a few months before she went missing.
‘I didn’t know him at all, no one really did, he wouldn’t come out or speak to anyone.
‘But seeing what other people have said about him recently hasn’t made me too surprised.
‘I think it was around November, she started to wear big black glasses.
‘They were the sort of glasses you would wear if you had just had a nose job, like ones to cover a black eye.
Police search officers trawl a nearby alleyway close to Ms Blake’s family home using garden forks yesterday
‘I was sure she had not had a nose job, it was November too so she wasn’t wearing them because of the sun, I assumed she had fallen or been hit and had a black eye maybe.’
Another neighbour who did not want to be named added: ‘Arthur never really came out of that house, he kept himself hidden away.
‘The only people who went in and out of that house in the four years they had been here was the family, an Amazon delivery driver and a Tesco delivery driver, that was it.
‘The kids were just normal boys, they would get told off by Sian if they were messing around before getting in the car, but nothing out of the ordinary.
‘They would just be laughing and joking with each other, I had no reason to suspect anything.
‘I never knew of them ever going abroad on a family holiday, I would tell Sian I was off somewhere and she would sigh and say she wishes she could go abroad.
‘It’s the same with him, I never knew him to go abroad.
‘He spoke very very softly and if you knocked on the door he would open it just a tiny bit and say the kids were asleep.
‘She never spoke about Eastenders, even when I told her about how much I liked the show, I had no idea she was ever in it and she never said.
‘The only time I thought something was strange was on October 4, I remember knocking on the door and Sian answered, she seemed withdrawn and the kids weren’t themselves.
‘They were hiding behind their mum, I thought it was odd but I just let it go at the time.
‘Maybe there’s nothing to it but now this has happened everything just keeps going over and over in my mind.’
A neighbour who did not want to be named said: ‘The boys were home schooled, everyone always thought the house was a bit odd.
Two blue police forensic tents were erected in the rear garden of the family’s three-bedroom bungalow yesterday. Forensics can be seen combing the area for evidence, while reporters wait outside the house
Ms Blake was last seen packing black bags into the boot of a car in Leyton, east London. The car – silver Renault Scenic – was found abandoned in Calvert Avenue, Bethnal Green, east London over the weekend
‘I know they were home schooled because I never once saw them in uniform and the boys used to wave to me from their bedroom window when I would leave to do my school drops.
‘She would sometimes take them on educational trips, places like museums in London, places like that, she would do the practical side of things.
‘No one knew Arthur, you wouldn’t even know he was there.
‘He didn’t talk, come out, he was just a recluse.’
‘We all thought it was really weird that they didn’t have any curtains.
‘I think the boys used to sleep on a mattress, but they constantly had sheets up in all of the windows.
‘It’s normal to do that if you’ve just moved in, but after four years, we all found it weird that they didn’t put any curtains up, but everyone is different.
‘Maybe they couldn’t afford it, I’m sure he didn’t work, I never saw him leave for work, it was just her with her sign language teaching that seemed to bring home the money.’
Mr Simpson-Kent’s mother, Selina Hoggett, 78, is believed to have left Britain to travel to Ghana, it was revealed today.
Widow Mrs Hoggett, 78, told neighbours before Christmas that she was leaving her home in a quiet Welsh town to spend the winter abroad in the sun.
Neighbour Janet Parnell, 88, said she usually leaves in early December and returns a couple months later.
‘She is never here for Christmas,’ Mrs Parnell said. ‘She has told me she goes home for the sun but has never said where home is – I always thought she was Indian.’
Mrs Hoggett moved from Ghana with Mr Simpson-Kent to London when he was a child. She later moved to Ammanford, Carmarthenshire, in 1988 when she married her husband Phillip Hoggett.
Another neighbour, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘I’ve been here for 10 years and have spoken to her just a couple of times. She doesn’t seem to have many visitors.’
Fans hated Ms Blake’s EastEnders character, Frankie Pierre, who pursued married cafe worker Alan Jackson (Howard Antony), pictured. She said she received hate mail from viewers of the show
As well starring in EastEnders Ms Blake also appeared in British teen drama Skins