Page last updated at 18:09 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 19:09 UK

Mansion fire man spoke of suicide

Christopher, Jillian and Kirstie Foster
The family were laid to rest near their Shropshire home in December

A businessman thought to have killed his wife and daughter before torching their mansion said he felt suicidal four months earlier, an inquest heard.

Christopher Foster, 50, his wife Jill, 49, and daughter Kirstie, 15, were found dead after a fire at their home in Maesbrook, Shropshire, in August.

GP Dr William Grech said Mr Foster spoke to him about business problems and had felt like taking his own life.

His thermal insulation company, Ulva Ltd, had gone into liquidation in 2007.

Dr Grech said: "During my consultation with Mr Foster he did not give any specific details about his business problems, although I got the impression they were big."

A friend of Mr Foster said he had told him he would rather take his own life than lose his £1.2m family home, which financial investigator Patrick Kelly said he had mortgaged three times.

'Horrendous situation'

Mr Kelly said Mr Foster had had 20 different bank accounts, one of which was overdrawn by £330,000.

When his company was put into liquidation, a £3m freezing order was put on his assets, leaving him without an income.

(l-r) Andrew Foster, Enid Foster, Stephen Langton
Mr Foster's family claims Kirstie was the subject of a kidnap threat

Mr Kelly said: "To lose everything and find yourself owing £1.2m with no income must have been a horrendous situation." The inquest heard a gun owned by Mr Foster and spent and unspent cartridges were found scattered around the kitchen, driveway and 16-acre grounds of Osbaston House.

Firearms expert Dr Phillip Rydeard told the inquest that pieces of lead and bullets found in Mrs Foster's skull and those of her daughter Kirstie "were consistent with having originated from" a German made .22 bolt action rifle, which had been fitted with a silencer.

Pathologist Dr Alexander Kolar told the hearing at Shrewsbury Magistrates' Court there was "no evidence" that Mr Foster had died of a gunshot wound.

He said Mr Foster would have been alive during the fire but probably died in "tens of minutes" from breathing in smoke. His body was found lying on top of his wife in a room below their bedroom.

'Orange glow'

Stephen Langton, representing Mr Foster's brother Andrew and mother Enid, said the family believed there had been kidnap threats made against Kirstie Foster.

He said Peter Day, a lorry driver from a nearby animal feed company, saw three men "loitering at the property" on the morning of the fire.

Mr Day asked a colleague to raise the alarm after spotting an "orange glow" from the road leading to the five-bedroom house and firefighters were called at 0430 BST on 26 August and quickly alerted police.

Under cross-examination Det Con Paul Rogers of West Mercia Police was asked whether police were aware of the kidnap allegations and the witness.

Mr Rogers said officers had no witness statements to such effect and had only learned of the claims on Wednesday evening but said the force would investigate.

The hearing was also told the millionaire had told police in December 2005 his ex-accountant was blackmailing him over a joint property deal in Cyprus.

Two people were prosecuted and found not guilty at Shrewsbury Crown Court in November 2006.

The inquest has been adjourned until Friday.

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Aerial footage of Osbaston House



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