AN apparent murder-suicide involving a family of three in Spain may be linked to the daughter's disability, it is understood.
It is believed a note left at their home, where a man and a mother and her daughter were found dead, said the daughter's disability had become too much and had pushed them to the edge.
The dead man, named by locals as Philip Wood, was found lying dead on a sofa. He was British.
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.
Police said they are working on the theory that the deaths, at a property on the Costa Del Sol, were a murder-suicide. It is thought the three died from gunshot wounds inflicted by one of the adults.
The trio were found inside the apartment in Mijas, Fuengirola, yesterday by their landlord.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin confirmed the woman and their daughter were Irish passport holders. Officials are attempting to contact their next of kin.
The Foreign Office in London said it was "liaising closely" with the local police and was ready to provide consular assistance.
Last night, a Guardia Civil spokeswoman said the family were renting the property where they were found dead.
"The latest information we have is that the owner of the house had not heard from the family for a few days and had not been paid," she said.
"He went to the house today and when there was no reply at the door, he went inside. Inside he saw the man dead on the sofa and immediately called the Guardia Civil.
"When officers inspected the house they found the wife and the daughter dead in a bedroom. The initial hypothesis at this early stage of the investigation is that this was a murder-suicide."
The spokeswoman said she could not confirm reports that the daughter had Down's Syndrome.
Mijas is a popular town with a reputation for being family friendly with its many cafes and restaurants.
Its centre is a typical Andalusian white-washed village, and the Britons' crime-scene apartment is on a pretty mountainside.
The town has three distinct neighbourhoods - the village high in the mountain, a more modern development and an eight mile stretch of sea punctuated by pretty villages.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware of the tragic incident involving the death of three family members in Spain.
"We are liaising closely with the local police and stand ready to provide consular assistance."