LONDON – Police have announced they are treating the deaths of a couple whose bodies were found on Christmas Day as a murder-suicide.
Jan and Julia Tshabalala, of Billingshurst, West Sussex, enjoyed Christmas dinner with their family a day early on Christmas Eve 2014 before sending their two young disabled children to stay with relatives.
Sussex Police today revealed they were treating the deaths as murder-suicide after the results of forensic and toxicology tests found that Mrs Tshabalala, aged 30, died as a result of pressure to the neck.
Her husband, aged 33, was found hanged at their home.
Neighbours said that the couple were ‘in deep financial trouble’ and that they believed the couple decided to end their lives because they ‘could not cope’ with their money worries.
Their children, who are believed to be aged between four and seven years, attend a local school specialising in learning difficulties.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Rymarz of the Sussex and Surrey major crime team said: ‘People may be wondering why it has taken so long to determine the causes of the couple’s deaths.
‘But this has not been a straightforward case and consideration has had to be given to a number of forensic factors. We have had to await the outcome of tests that have taken time to complete.
‘Members of the Tshabalalas’ family are fully aware of this and understand the reasons.
‘I have been grateful to them for their dignity and patience while this investigation has proceeded.’
A relative who peered through a window of the rented £150,000 home found the pair on Christmas Day last year.
The exact circumstances of the deaths are due to be heard at an inquest, although a date is yet to be set.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: ‘The deaths of a Billingshurst couple, Jan and Julia Tshabalala, on Christmas Day, are now officially being treated as a murder-suicide enquiry by police.
‘Extensive forensic and toxicological tests have just been completed and show this to be the most likely outcome.
‘The exact circumstances still remain to be decided at an inquest into the Tshabalalas’ deaths.
‘Evidence will now be presented to the West Sussex coroner for an inquest to be held.’
Neighbours said they had seemed to be a ‘nice happy family’.
‘They were very nice people,’ said their next-door neighbour, who asked not to be named previously told the Daily Mail. ‘We used to receive Christmas cards from them.
‘They were a very private couple, but we would always speak to them over the fence. They always seemed like a happy couple, but you never really know do you?’
One neighbour said: ‘I’d see the man in his front garden sometimes and he would wave. She was a good mother, I would see her at the swings in the park with her kids. They were completely normal and pleasant.’ – Daily Mail