Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 17:17 UK

Body of wife found at arson house

Jillian Foster
Jillian Foster's body was recovered from the building late on Friday

One of two bodies found at the burnt-out home of a millionaire businessman is that of his wife, police have said.

Post-mortem tests found Jillian Foster, 49, of Osbaston House in Maesbrook, Shropshire, had been shot in the head.

Christopher Foster, 50, and his 15-year-old daughter, Kirstie, are still missing after the fire which was started deliberately on Tuesday.

Police said the other body was believed to be a man and that a rifle, belonging to Mr Foster, was found by the bodies.

Gun cartridges

Formal identification of the other body is expected to take some time and further tests are needed to try to establish a cause of death, police said.

The female body was positively identified from dental records as that of Jill Foster.

West Mercia police have launched a murder inquiry after post-mortem examinations were carried out on the bodies on Saturday night.

They were recovered from the property late on Friday.

Mansion murder police briefing

A rifle, identified as being legitimately owned by Mr Foster, was recovered near the two bodies, along with the body of a fourth dog.

Post-mortem examinations carried out on three horses and three dogs found in nearby outbuildings showed they had also been shot before the fire started.

Spent and unspent gun cartridges have been found scattered around the grounds of the property.

Supt Gary Higgins, from West Mercia Police, said further tests were needed before it could be established whether the recovered rifle was the murder weapon.

"The two bodies were found close to one another and the body of another dog was found nearby," he said.

"The dog has also been the subject of a post-mortem examination, which revealed it too had been shot."

'Open mind'

It is expected to take several days, possibly even weeks, to complete the examination of the home due to the large site and amount of debris in the building, police said.

Police said search teams had been forced to withdraw from the main part of the house on Saturday night for safety reasons.

Christopher Foster and daughter Kirstie
Christopher Foster and his teenage daughter, Kirstie, are still missing

"Concerns were raised for the safety of those in the building and the walls of the house had begun to lean in towards where search and forensic teams were working," Mr Higgins said.

But late on Sunday afternoon police said the search had resumed "some hours ago".

The fire started at the property at about 0500 BST on Tuesday.

The night before the Fosters had been at a friend's barbecue before returning to their home, which is thought to have been valued at 1.2m.

Det Supt Jon Groves, who is leading the investigation, said: "Although this is now being treated as a murder, we are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances leading up to the incident."

Mr Foster made his fortune developing insulation technology for oil rigs.

Court documents show that his company, Ulva Ltd, which had gone into liquidation, faced legal action from one of its suppliers for thousands of pounds and also owed about 800,000 in tax.

On Sunday morning about 40 people gathered at St John's church in Maesbrook to pray for the family.

Anyone with information has been asked to contact West Mercia Police or Crimestoppers.

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