A man believed to have killed his two young daughters before committing suicide phoned their mother to say “the children have gone to sleep forever”, a family friend said.
Mechanic David Cass, 33, is thought to have smothered three-year-old Ellie and 14-month-old Isobel on Sunday night in a caravan parked where he worked in Southampton, England.
He then went inside Paynes Road Car Sales garage area and hanged himself.
Family friend Val Frasier said the children’s mother, Kerry Hughes, had called police after receiving the call from her former boyfriend.
Mr Cass was caring for the youngsters for the first time after an acrimonious split with Miss Hughes about four months ago. He had picked them up on Saturday morning.
“She had a phone call from her husband (sic). He apparently said to her ’the children have gone to sleep forever and I’m going to hang myself’,” Mrs Frasier said.
Miss Hughes’s best friend Emma Timberlake said Mr Cass threatened his ex-girlfriend he would kill himself on Friday.
Miss Hughes also said Mr Cass offered her £250 (€315) to have sex with him one last time but she refused, Miss Timberlake said.
Police raced to the garage at about 6.50pm and forced open the gates to get inside but the three were already dead.
A Hampshire Police spokesman said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.
At the scene, forensic officers were still examining both the caravan and inside the garage, which remains cordoned off.
Miss Timberlake, 20, said Miss Hughes was a brilliant mother and said both the girls were gorgeous. But the relationship had been stormy and she warned her friend Mr Cass would be “trouble”.
Miss Hughes was too upset to talk yesterday and is being comforted by family.
One friend, who laid flowers at the garage but did not want to be named, said: “She is in bits – what has happened is just horrendous.”
Garage manager John Martin said Mr Cass worked at the garage for four years but resigned on Friday.
He said he seemed depressed over the last few weeks because of relationship problems with his girlfriend, who lives in the Fair Oak area of Eastleigh, Hampshire.
He told reporters: “He said to me he was going away and he had a plan. I said: ’Don’t do anything stupid’.”
Mr Cass had been living part of the time in the caravan at the garage, which is mainly an MoT testing centre.
Student Miss Timberlake paid tribute to the two girls and their mother.
“Ellie’s laugh made everyone smile – you would start laughing because it was so cute,” she said.
“I was on the phone to Kerry on Friday and I could hear Izzy and Ellie laughing and having a play fight. And then Ellie started tickling her mother and I was on the phone thinking how cute that was.
“Ellie was a gorgeous little girl and Kerry used to call her the ginger ninja. Izzy was so beautiful when she was born and she had just started to become the gorgeous little girl that Ellie was.
“I cannot believe that anybody could have done this, but I know that there have been problems with Kerry and Dave throughout all their relationship.”
Miss Timberlake said she introduced Mr Cass to Miss Hughes and that she was once Mr Cass’s girlfriend.
She said he was “mentally unstable” and lied to her and Miss Hughes about having large sums of money in the bank and owning houses when in fact he was living in a caravan.
“I spoke to Kerry on Friday and she told me that Dave had said he was going to kill himself. But he didn’t say anything about harming the children.
“But when we were together and we broke up he has said the same thing to me, so I said to her ’Don’t listen to him, darling’, but then this happened.
“She still loved him and she wanted to make a go of it for the sake of the children but there had always been problems.”
She said she had been friends with Miss Hughes since they both attended the same classes at St Anne’s Convent School for Girls in Southampton and after school they had lived together.
“Kerry was just an absolutely brilliant mother who really loved her children. She was shaky at first about being a mum and she used to ring me up and talk about it, but she was an absolutely brilliant mother.”
The owner of the garage, John Mayhew, said he saw Mr Cass on Saturday and described him as “very, very low”.
“He worked on Saturday until 1pm. He was depressed. He said it was something to do with the custody of his children.
“He was a nice lad. He was a very good worker. He kept himself to himself, he was mellow. He was a doting father – it sounds ridiculous but he was a doting father.”
Post-mortem examinations on the three bodies are ongoing and the results will be available today, a police spokeswoman said.