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Care probe launched after Dartmoor fall deaths

Katherine Hooper with her sons Joshua and Samuel. Photo: SWNS

An investigation has started into whether authorities failed a young mother from Devon who is believed to have killed herself and her two children.

Katherine Hooper, 24, and her five-year-old son Joshua Patterson were found at the bottom of a 70ft cliff in Dartmoor National Park yesterday morning.

Police later discovered the body of Ms Hooper's two-year-old son Samuel Patterson after searching her home in Paignton.

Detectives said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident - but confirmed all three had been known to various welfare agencies and a Serious Case Review would also be launched.

The northern side of the Tor where the woman and her child fell. Credit: ITV News West Country

Neighbours said the boys were taken into care earlier this year after Katherine had a major bust-up with long-term partner Neil Patterson, 54, who was their father.

On 29 April, Katherine - known as Kat - sparked a major search when she went missing and police described her as 'a high risk vulnerable person'.

The police helicopter and moorland search and rescue experts were called in before she was found the following morning unconscious and face down in a field.

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

The Serious Case Review will now look into whether more could have been done to protect the children.

The 70 feet drop from the top of the Tor. Credit: ITV News West Country

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 family home in Dukes Close, Paignton. Credit: ITV News West Country

The deaths prompted police to carry out a search of their home and - upon forcing open the property's front door - they found two-year-old Samuel dead in his bed.

Devon and Cornwall Police's Major Crime Investigation Team confirmed it had launched a murder investigation.

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.

– Devon & Cornwall Police spokesman

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

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.

– Neil Patterson, father of Joshua and Samuel

In the meantime, detectives say they want to hear from anyone who saw Ms Hooper or her two children in the days running up to their deaths.

Those able to assist officers should contact Devon and Cornwall Police via the 101 telephone number quoting log number 316 of 120713.

Flowers outside the family home in Paignton. Credit: ITV News West Country

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