Page last updated at 19:58 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 20:58 UK

Police resume arson house search


Forensic teams examining the inside of the house

Police investigating a fire at the property of a millionaire and his family - who are all missing - have resumed searching inside the house.

Officers had to pull out of Osbaston House, near Maesbrook, Shropshire, earlier because of falling debris.

It is not known if Christopher Foster, 50, his wife Jillian, 49, and daughter Kirstie, 15, were in the building when it was set alight early on Tuesday.

Officers have searched outbuildings and were removing vehicles from the site.

Forensic specialists will begin the lengthy, painstaking process of sifting and examining all the contents
Supt Gary Higgins
Supt Gary Higgins said officers began searching the main house but had to withdraw "almost immediately" because of safety reasons.

He said work was to be carried out to "shore up the structure" so police could re-enter the building.

He added officers had searched the annexe part of the main building which was relatively intact.

"Forensic specialists will begin the lengthy, painstaking process of sifting and examining all the contents," he said.

"There is extensive debris at the site and it will take some days, possibly several weeks, to complete this part of the investigation.

"We will be seeking to build up a picture of the circumstances leading up to the fire."

Police said "every possible scenario for what happened" was being considered and officers were following up all possible lines of inquiry.

Supt Gary Higgins on the investigation so far

West Mercia Police believe the fire was started deliberately.

Supt Higgins said police were waiting for the results of post-mortem examinations carried out on three horses found dead in a stable block, which was also gutted in the fire.

He said the bodies of three dogs were found close to the horses.

A large horse box, parked close to the gates of the property, has been removed from the site for forensic examination, he added.

A police spokeswoman also confirmed that a computer used by Kirstie would form part of the investigation.

CCTV cameras from the property have also been taken away by police.

Chris, Jill and Kirstie Foster
This picture of the Fosters was taken at a friend's house on Monday

The fire in the house, thought to be valued at 1.2m, broke out at about 0500 BST on Tuesday.

The day before the family had attended a barbecue at a friend's house.

Mr Foster is listed as the director of Ulva Limited - a thermal insulation manufacturing company in Telford - with Mrs Foster named as company secretary.

The firm went into administration in August last year and a court order was issued in November for the company to be wound up.

A judge later found Mr Foster had spent the previous months stripping Ulva of its assets and transferring them to a new firm he had set up called Ulva International.

Land Registry documents show that in October 2007 a court blocked the sale of Osbaston House without its permission.

And earlier this year, liquidators stopped Mr Foster from selling the house without their knowledge.

Mr Foster was also the alleged victim of a blackmail - but two men were cleared of attempting to blackmail him into giving them 100,000 at Shrewsbury Crown Court in November 2006.

Kirstie Foster is a year 10 pupil at Ellesmere College, an independent school in Ellesmere, Shropshire.

Head teacher Brendan Wignall said: "Kirstie is a charming, popular and hard-working girl with many friends, all of whom are hoping she will be found safe and well."

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