Police discover three bodies in search for missing Eastenders actress Sian Blake - search begins for boyfriend
Murder squad detectives are searching for the boyfriend of an ex-EastEnders actress after three bodies were found by police looking for the performer and her two children.
Shocked neighbours of Sian Blake, 43, who played Frankie Pierre in the hit soap, broke down in tears after the devastating discovery in the garden of her home in Erith, Kent.
She vanished with her sons Zachary, eight, and Amon, four, in east London on December 13. Three days later, police interviewed her partner, the children's father Arthur Simpson-Kent, 48, at the family home, before he also disappeared.
Officers made the grim discovery today and launched a murder inquiry.
Speaking outside Scotland Yard, Detective Superintendent Paul Monk said: "Sadly today we found three bodies in the back garden of their home address and as such, this is now a murder investigation.
"Formal identification has yet to take place, it's too early to speculate but of course the family has been told and this is obviously a very difficult time for them.
"Our efforts are continuing to find Arthur Simpson-Kent. Our appeal is to anyone who may know his current whereabouts or can assist us in finding him - we do need to speak to him as a matter of urgency."
Former actress Ms Blake had motor neurone disease - a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord - and was reportedly looking "very frail" before she vanished.
She and her children were last seen in Waltham Forest, east London, on December 13, and her silver-beige Renault Scenic was found in Calvert Avenue in Bethnal Green, east London, on January 3, but it is not known who parked it there.
Yesterday Scotland Yard confirmed that the murder squad had taken over the investigation, three weeks after she and her children went missing.
Next-door neighbour Sam Sanni-Alashe was in tears over the news. He said: "I am in shock, I can't talk. It is really hurtful. I know the lady. I see the children playing at the back. I say hello all the time. We are not close but she was a very happy woman.
"This is a disaster and it is awful for the community. I can see everything in the garden but these last few days I have chosen not to look. When my son finds out, he will be terrified."
Another neighbour Hannah Cutting, 18, said: "I would see the kids playing at the window, then we were worried when police were there 24/7.
"It's awful just to think that something can happen on your doorstep and you see people and you have no idea what's going on."
A 30-year-old woman living nearby who knew Ms Blake, tearfully said: "She was a lovely, caring lady and we didn't know anything about her being in EastEnders. She was just the sign language tutor with her two boys.
"I just feel really upset because I imagine that house and I just see those boys playing about and getting in the car. I was hoping she was just hiding away to have her last Christmas.
"I knew she was ill but we didn't know with what. I wish I had been a better neighbour. I'm devastated."
Previously an unknown actress, Ms Blake's big break came when she was introduced as soul singer Frankie in EastEnders in June 1996 by series producer Jane Harris.
Her storylines saw her character frequently pursuing attached men and succeeding in breaking up the marriage of Alan and Carol Jackson, played by Howard Antony and Lindsey Coulson.
According to IMDB, Blake was on the show for 56 episodes in total, reportedly quitting in 1997 because of hostility from viewers towards her manipulative character.
Other contemporaries during her time on the BBC soap included Patsy Palmer and Dean Gaffney - who played Alan's step-children Bianca and Robbie - as well as Michael French (David Wicks) and Sylvester Williams (Mick McFarlane).
The actress also appeared in episodes of The Bill, Casualty, Doctors and Skins.
Police are still searching Sian Blake's house and have removed several bags of numbered evidence. Police guards have been on duty at both the front and back of the house all day.
The search for clues at Ms Blake's house has finished for the day.
A police officer told the Press Association the house will be guarded overnight and the search will resume in the morning.