It is believed Philip Wood shot his Irish wife Sheila and daughter Sophie, covered their bodies with a sheet, and turned the gun on himself. Their bodies lay undiscovered for several days.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has contacted Sheila’s family and is offering them consular assistance. A spokesman said officials were liaising with Spanish authorities through the Irish embassy in Madrid. But with autopsies to be completed, the matter was being handled by Spanish police.
The couple had had financial and health worries. Messages from well-wishers on her Facebook page reveal Sheila had been ill since last summer and her 28-year-old daughter, who was seriously ill at birth, had a learning disability and required her parents’ full-time care. Close friend Nick Holland-Morgan described Sheila as a “truly remarkable person”.
The three family members shot in a suspected murder suicide on the Costa del Sol could have died in the same home as much as two days apart.
Neighbours of the British father and his Irish wife and daughter reported hearing two sets of gunshots at the Mijas urbanisation separated by “at least” a day.
Police are working on the theory that Philip Wood, aged 57, shot dead his wife Sheila, aged 54, and his 27-year-old daughter Sophie over the weekend before turning the gun on himself.
“We were in the house at the weekend when we heard what sounded like an explosion,” said a neighbour, retired businessman Kevin Watts, 65, from East Sussex. “And then the same thing happened a day or two later — we heard a loud bang but we had no idea what it could possibly be. We now know that it was gunshots.”
Another neighbour, Flora del Valle, 53, added: “I didn’t know that there had been a shooting until yesterday, but we definitely heard a couple of loud bangs, at least a day, possibly two, apart.”
“We thought it a little strange at the time but assumed it was just fireworks. I couldn’t believe there could be a shooting in such a peaceful area as this.”
It is certainly a lovely, quiet place for the family to have settled. They had lived in the Torrenueva urbanisation for at least a decade, maybe more, said neighbours.
The development near to the small resort of La Cala de Mijas, popular with Irish and British holidaymakers, is a short drive to the beach and has a string of nearby golf courses.
However, it seems the Woods rarely socialised and didn’t mix with near neighbours or have many visitors.
Retired businessman Watts has owned his property just below the Woods’ home on the urbanisation for seven years, but says he only ever spoke to Philip once.
“We very rarely ever saw him. We exchanged a few words on one occasion but that was it. They very much kept themselves to themselves. The shutters of the house were always closed. In fact, in seven years we haven’t seen them open once. The really odd thing was that we never saw Sheila. We didn’t even know he had a wife. We had always assumed it was just Philip living with his granddaughter.”
Wife Pauline added: “Philip always seemed strange; a rather bizarre character but inoffensive all the same. But he seemed anxious if anyone approached the house. We’ve never known anyone to see the inside of it.”
It is thought initial reports that the daughter had Down syndrome are incorrect, but neighbours believe she was suffering with a mental disability.
It is this issue — plus the matter of her mother’s mobility — that seems to be at the heart of the tragedy.
“The daughter used to wander around the garden in her nightdress calling out for her ‘granddad’ in a sweet, childish voice,” Watts said.
“So we always thought the man who lived there was her grandfather. It was all very spooky.”
While the autopsy results are as yet unknown, evidence suggests the initial murder/suicide hypothesis may not be so clear cut.
One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said she had heard the autopsy had come back and it was not straight forward.
In a Facebook post earlier this month, Sheila herself may have alluded to the subject of her own death.
On Jun 8 the mother had posted a picture of what appear to be gravestones, with the words: “She who leaves a trail of glitter is never forgotten.”
Last night, one of her friends posted on her Facebook page: “Was this your goodbye sweet Angel, may all three of your rest in peace.”
Another Facebook friend said that she had found it ‘strange’ that Sheila had posted a message around a week ago saying goodbye as she was “going away for a while”.
One friend, Myra Swainson, who runs the Costa Advice Bureau, said: “I am just so shocked, she was such a special person that so many people related to.”