Inquest into family deaths today

The bodies were found in a lane at Newton Stacey, near Andover, on Sunday. Photo: PA

An inquest into the deaths of a former army sergeant and his two children who he stabbed to death will be opened and adjourned today.

The bodies of Michael, 51, Ben, seven, and Freya Pedersen, six, were found next to a Saab 900SE convertible car in the tiny lane at Newton Stacey, near Andover, on Sunday.

An inquest into their deaths will be opened by Coroner Grahame Short at Winchester Coroner's Court.

Pedersen was a former army sergeant in the Household Cavalry unit that was hit by an IRA nail bomb in Hyde Park in 1982, it has been reported.

On Monday, Detective Superintendent Tony Harris, of Hampshire police, said that the "tragic" incident happened while Pedersen was on an arranged visit with the two children from his estranged wife.

Pedersen, of Chertsey, Surrey, had taken the children to visit his father in Andover but failed to return the two youngsters to their mother by the pre-arranged time of 5pm.

The bodies were found lying behind the car at 6.15pm by a walker, according to police.

Mr Harris said police were tracing the family of Pedersen, who had two other children from a previous relationship, when his estranged wife raised the alarm at 7pm.

Mr Harris said he believed the deaths happened sometime that afternoon and he was not looking for anyone else as part of the inquiry.

Mr Harris said: "A Home Office pathologist visited the scene and at this time it appears the children suffered fatal stab wounds and Mr Pedersen took his own life shortly afterwards."

Michael Pedersen with Sefton in 1982. Credit: PA

The 1982 bomb attack hit as Pedersen's unit was taking part in a changing of the guard ceremony.

Four soldiers and seven horses were killed in the explosion, which left Pedersen's horse Sefton seriously injured.

Despite 34 separate wounds that required eight hours of surgery, the animal survived and became famous for battling against the odds.

Sefton became a symbol of the struggle against the IRA and won the Horse of the Year, a prize Pedersen picked up on its behalf.

A Surrey Police spokesman said that the case had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.