SPANISH police were last night probing the theory a British man shot his Irish wife and daughter dead before turning the gun on himself because of financial problems.
Neighbours of the couple in their fifties in the Costa del Sol resort of Mijas, near Fuengirola, said debt collectors had visited the family just days before their bodies were found yesterday morning.
The dead man, named by locals as Philip Wood, was found lying dead on a sofa.
His wife Sheila and daughter Sophie (20), who had special needs, were found in a bathroom. It is feared they may have lain dead for a number of days before being found.
Sources said Sheila Wood was originally from Dublin and both she and her daughter held Irish passports.
It is understood Mrs Wood had been in poor health lately. The family had been living in Spain for the past decade.
The landlord of the property where they were living made the grim discovery yesterday morning.
The four-bed three-storey villa, lying in a quiet tree-lined street in the popular coastal resort of Cala de Mijas, was sealed shut with police tape yesterday.
The rented house, worth around €400,000, came with its own swimming pool.
It is a short distance from the Spanish family home of missing Irish teenager Amy Fitzpatrick.
Last night the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was liaising with Spanish authorities and trying to make contact with family members here. Neighbours said they heard shots several days ago, sparking speculation the bodies lay undiscovered for some time.
Dutch neighbour Elizabeth Van Heyningen (66) said: "The couple have been in my house for a drink.
"He seemed very nice but I only knew him as Philip. He must have been in his late fifties.
"He used to work in a Spanish bank before becoming an estate agent and then losing his job. I think they had run out of money.
"He used to drive a BMW and his wife had a nice car of her own but then they sold them for a hired Opel they used to drive.
"In recent weeks I hadn't seen them driving anything and a couple of weeks ago I saw him walking up the hill to his house with heavy bags of shopping.
"They kept lots pets and it was about the same time Philip came rushing round asking me if I could take him to the vets.
"His wife had fallen ill in recent months and he often came round asking if I could do anything about another neighbour's barking dog which was upsetting her."
The neighbours said Mrs Wood and her daughter had rarely been seen in public in recent weeks.
"You'd very rarely see her (Sophie) or the wife out and about," she said.
Garage owner Kevin Watts (65), an immediate neighbour, said: "They lived like hermits. They always kept the metal shutters on their windows down."
He added: "I heard a bang going off about three nights ago. It was like the boom in a harbour when the lifeboat's going out. My dog jumped on my lap."
Mr Watts said police arrived at the house around 11am yesterday.
"A uniformed officer came up when I asked what was going on and said: 'There's a problem' but wouldn't tell me what the problem was."
Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "We've heard what happened was down to financial problems. Debt collectors were round at the property last week."
Another neighbour Suzanne Hughes (58), originally from Manchester, said: "I heard three shots the other day.I put it down at the time to someone shooting wild boar.
"I even turned round to my husband and joked, 'I hope someone's not being shot.' It's horrible to think that may have been the moment the killings were happening."
A friend of the family, who dropped by the house last night, said: "He had a lot of problems on his back. His daughter was grown-up but her mind was that of a baby's and his wife had been ill for some time.
"He did work in a bank but he told me he had changed his job and was working for a company in Ireland when we last spoke."
A Malaga-based government spokesman said: "The bodies of three people with bullet wounds have been found at a house in La Cala de Mijas. They are the bodies of a married couple and their daughter.
"One of the hypotheses being probed is that it was a double murder and suicide but autopsies will be carried out to establish more."
A Civil Guard spokesman in Madrid said the owner of the property contacted them after discovering the bodies.