Young child's body found at home after mother-and-son deaths in Dartmoor

Young child's body found at home after mother-and-son deaths in Dartmoor

British police have launched a murder investigation following the deaths of a mother and her son at Dartmoor and the discovery of a second child's body at the family's home.

The 24-year-old woman, named in reports as Katharine Hooper, and her five-year-old son died after falling from rocks at Haytor in Devon - one of Dartmoor's most famous landmarks which is popular with walkers and climbers.

The body of a two-year-old boy was later found at her home address in Dukes Close, Paignton.

Devon and Cornwall Police said they have launched a murder investigation led by the force's major crime investigation team.

Detective Superintendent Paul Burgan said: "We are keeping an open mind about all three deaths, but at this stage we are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.

"We are keen to speak to anyone who may have any information or might have been in the Haytor area earlier today, Friday."

An air ambulance, a police helicopter and members of the Dartmoor Rescue Group were called to the scene at 11.50am.

Neighbour Tracey Cole, told the Western Morning News: "The whole community is feeling utterly shocked and devastated. This is a close knit community.

"We always looked after each other especially because of the kids. With Kat we were always in and out of each other's houses. We would see each other every day.

"I really don't understand what happened. Kat was totally and utterly devoted to her children."

The Dartmoor National Park Authority asked members of the public to avoid visiting the area due to the tragedy.

Tributes were paid to the mother and child by members of the emergency services.

The Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team tweeted: "The team were called to assist at a tragic incident at Haytor today.

"Our thoughts are with the family."

Post-mortem examinations are due to take place and next of kin have been informed, police said.

Ms Hooper’s estranged partner Neil Patterson, 52, said he had been left devastated by the tragedy.

But her next-door neighbour Johnathan Grant, 28, told the Daily Telegraph that the two had a fractious relationship – which culminated in a court case following an “almighty bust up”.

In April, Mr Patterson appeared before magistrates where he pleaded not guilty to assault by beating.

Mr Grant was reported as saying: “One night in May they got into a huge argument where there was an almighty bust up.

“Since then she has suffered badly with depression.

“Samuel was meant to be starting his first day at the local nursery yesterday.

“The boys were lovely and played with my girls. Kat had lived there for three years. It is sick, utterly sick what has happened.”

Mr Grant added that following the breakdown of her relationship, she became very anxious and became too unwell to carry on her job at a local hotel.

Last May, police launched a major search and rescue operation after Ms Hooper suddenly disappeared with her two children.

After fears for their safety grew, officers called on the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team to help with the search.

Twenty-four hours later, Ms Hooper was found reportedly covered in mud and suffering from dehydration.

She was then taken to hospital while her two sons were taken into care.

Two weeks ago, Ms Hooper and her two sons moved back into their home in Dukes Close.

Then just before midday on Friday, the unthinkable happened.

Foreign tourists reported seeing Ms Hooper standing on top of a granite outcrop in Haytor – with a child on her back or shoulders and suggested she may have jumped.

Scores of police, paramedics and search and rescue teams in 20 vehicles then rushed to the scene – where Ms Hooper and her young son were found lying at the bottom of the rock face.

Air ambulances were dispatched, but the woman and the child both died shortly after the fall at 11.50am.

The deaths prompted police to carry out a search of their home and – upon forcing open the property’s front door – they found little Samuel dead in his bed.

Police also confirmed that while no formal identification had taken place, the deceased were “believed to be Katherine Hooper, Josh Patterson, aged five years and Sam Patterson aged two years”.

A spokesman added: “We can confirm the family were subject of Safeguarding Partnership Intervention prior to their untimely deaths.

“This investigation will now be referred to a Serious Case Review process as per national good practice.

“The partner agencies are assisting police with the investigation and further detail cannot be released at this time.”

A spokesman also said family liaison officers had been appointed to assist the immediate family before issuing a statement from Mr Patterson.

It said: “On the Friday evening I heard the devastating news the three most important and cherished people in my life had been taken from me.

“I would gratefully appreciate for me and my family to be left alone to come to terms with this devastating loss and to grieve in peace.”

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