A FATHER and his two young children died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they watched Christmas TV in their family home.
Trevor Wallwork’s body was found in a chair in front of the television set – his 12-year-old daughter Kim and nine-year-old son Harry lying beside him and the Christmas tree lights still flashing in their newly decorated bungalow.
Although further toxicology tests have to be carried out, it appeared last night that carbon monoxide poisoning had caused the deaths of Mr Wallwork and his children.
Their two dogs were also found dead in the house.
The tragedy came to light at around 9.40pm on Sunday night after Mr Wallwork’s step-daughter Vikki Whitehorne went to the remote, rural bungalow two miles from the village of Gurteen, Co. Sligo.
Miss Whitehorne, 22, who lives in nearby Tubbercurry, is said to have tried to phone the house but became concerned when she couldn’t get an answer as she had been expecting them to be in.
She immediately called the emergency services.
She is believed to have warned them that she could smell gas in the white, 1970s bungalow where she found her stepfather sitting in his chair.
The two youngsters, who attended nearby Mullaghroe National School, were lying on the floor near his feet in the sitting room.
Mr Wallwork was still in his chair as if watching television. The set was still switched on, as were the lights on the Christmas tree, which the family had only recently decorated.
A local doctor who attended the scene pronounced all three dead at around 11pm. It was not immediately clear last night how long the bodies had lain undiscovered at the house.
Shortly after entering the house, gardaí are said to have discovered a cylinder of gas attached to a heater in a room near the sitting room.
Mr Wallwork’s wife Susan – who he is said to have been a full-time carer for – is seriously ill in hospital with an unrelated condition and was not in the house at the time he and the two children died.
The children’s mother, Donna Wallwork, is disabled and has been living with her parents Richard and Margaret Farrimond in Leigh, Lancashire since about 2008.
It is understood that gardaí had contacted the family in Manchester last night. The couple, who are in their 60s, only found out about the tragedy yesterday evening.
Mr Wallwork, who is from Manchester, is believed to have moved to the bungalow off Moygara Road, Gurteen, about six years ago.
This is believed to have been around the time he and Donna split up. He had lived in one of the bungalows for about three years before moving to the one where he and his children were found on Sunday evening.
Yesterday, a single car was parked outside the house, which had a large satellite TV dish to one side and a white caravan parked nearby.
An orange gas cylinder was visible outside the porch.
He and Susan were described last night by locals as ‘a quiet family who kept themselves to themselves’.
As shocked locals came to grips with the news, Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis examined the bodies at the scene before they were removed for a post-mortem examination at around 2.30pm.
Toxicology tests are still to be carried out but because of the festive season the results of these tests are not likely to be known for at least two weeks.
However, the post-mortem tests indicated death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning and there was no evidence of any other type of poisoning.
Last night a Garda spokesman said: ‘It was a terrible tragedy.’
Gardaí found the gas container linked to a heater in the hallway. They believe the family was heating the rest of the house with that.
In addition, there was a coal-fire burning in the sitting-room where the three of them were watching television.
Forensics officers will continue investigations today to try to establish what the ventilation was like in the sitting-room.
A variety of toxicology tests will also be carried out.
All three bodies are expected to be returned to the UK once they are released. Earlier in the day, Inspector Colm Nevin, who is in charge of the investigation, said: ‘Gardaí have taken possession of a gas container which was found in a separate room and it was connected to a heater.’
He added: ‘There is no suggestion at this stage of foul play.’
The family’s only neighbour, a woman called Paula who has three young children, said the first that she knew of the tragedy was when she heard the ambulance arrive just after 10pm on Sunday night.
She said: ‘I didn’t even hear Vicky’s car arrive earlier. ‘We heard later that she couldn’t get in contact with her step-dad or the children and she drove to the house.’
Paula, who refused to give her surname, added: ‘At first, when I heard the ambulance, I thought Trevor’s wife may have died.’
When Trevor and Susan moved from their home in England six years ago they first lived in the house that Paul eventually moved into for three years before moving to the council house next door three years ago.
Paula, also from England, said she and her partner had moved in a few weeks after the Wallworks moved next door.
She said: ‘They kept themselves to themselves.
‘I only heard Sue wasn’t very well a few months ago when she went for an operation.’ She added of Mr Wallwork’s stepdaughter’s discovery: ‘What she discovered was appalling.
‘She told us about it but what she said is her own business.’ Farmer Michael McKeown, who lives nearby, said that he knew the two children – but not their parents.
He said: ‘I would give the young boy and his sister a lift up the lane if I ever came across them when they were coming back from school.
‘They were lovely. One time their mother gave me eggs because of the lifts. ‘They seemed like really nice people.
‘It’s an awful terrible tragedy, especially just before Christmas.’