Was cash trouble behind lockdown massacre? Coronavirus ‘stay at home’ order ruined ‘killer’ builder’s business plans, friends reveal
- Robert Needham is believed to have killed Kelly Fitzgibbons and their daughters
- The bodies of the four were discovered in a house in rural Woodmancote
- Acquaintance suggested Mr Needham’s plans ‘all fell apart’ following lockdown
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
A builder thought to have shot his partner and two young daughters in a murder-suicide was renovating two homes for the family before coronavirus ruined business, it emerged last night.
Robert Needham, 42, is believed to have killed Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, and their daughters Ava, four, and two-year-old Lexi in the £500,000 detached property they shared with his mother, Maureen.
The bodies of the four, as well as their Staffordshire bull terrier Bill, were discovered at the house in rural Woodmancote, West Sussex, on Sunday evening.
Harrowing: The family of four. Robert Needham, 42, his partner Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, and their two children Ava, five, and Lexi, three, died in a house in Woodmancote, West Sussex, in a suspected murder suicide
The house where their bodies were found. They were found by a friend who climbed in through a window of the property after a concerned family member raised the alarm
The cordoned-off crime scene pictured this afternoon. Friends said that even in recent weeks self-employed Mr Needham had talked of plans for the future, including building an extension on a second property the couple had purchased in nearby Waterlooville, Hampshire
They were found by a friend who climbed in through a window of the property after a concerned family member raised the alarm.
Friends said that even in recent weeks self-employed Mr Needham had talked of plans for the future, including building an extension on a second property the couple had purchased in nearby Waterlooville, Hampshire.
But one acquaintance last night suggested that maybe Mr Needham’s plans for the future ‘all fell apart’ in the days leading up to the massacre – because of the lockdown.
The deaths came just two days after Ms Fitzgibbons posted a series of pictures on Facebook of her family out in the countryside last Friday under the heading ‘our walk for the day’
A photograph Ms Fitzgibbons posted on Friday – two days before the family were found dead
He was in the middle of building a large extension on the property in West Sussex, owned by his mother, to ‘make it nice for her’.
But the building trade has ground to a halt since isolation measures were introduced, hitting the self-employed harder than most.
An electrician who worked with the father-of-two on a number of occasions, who asked not to be named, said: ‘They were going to be moving out. I don’t know why they were still living there [in Woodmancote].
Robert Needham is pictured with his partner Kelly Fitzgibbons. Their bodies were found at home in Woodmancote, West Sussex, on Sunday evening
Mr Needham (pictured left) is believed to have killed his partner Kelly and their two children, Ava, four and Lexi, two (also pictured)
Mr Needham and his partner Ms Fitzgibbons had two children – Ava, five, and Lexi, three
‘It may be it all fell apart. He was asking us to help get supplies for Waterlooville. Maybe it failed and he had to stay with his mother.
‘He was… a one-man band. He did his own brickwork, labouring. I think he had a decent product. I’m not sure how well he was doing for himself.’
Mrs Needham, 77, who lived in the downstairs of the house while the family lived upstairs, is believed to have been self-isolating elsewhere at the time of the killings. The family moved in around five years ago as Mr Needham’s father Rex began struggling with Parkinson’s disease. He died in 2017.
Sussex Police are under pressure to reveal whether Mr Needham legally owned the gun that was used for the massacre and whether they had contact with the family prior to the suspected murder-suicide.
Uncle Ronald Peacock found the bodies
The rural area is popular with grouse and pheasant shooting enthusiasts – yet nearby gun clubs contacted yesterday had no knowledge of Mr Needham and Sussex Police failed to respond to enquiries.
One local last night said the aftermath of the massacre had been ‘like a scene from [the TV crime show] CSI’ as he revealed the couple were rarely seen together, raising questions over the state of their relationship.
Terry Collins, who works at the village pub, said: ‘We didn’t realise they were together, to be honest. She used to come in [with] a group of friends and he would come in separately.
‘I didn’t know until I saw the picture of them together that they were a couple. I didn’t know her well but I’ve heard she was a lovely girl.’
Mr Needham, a keen carp angler, was yesterday described by villagers as ‘pleasant’ and ‘mild-mannered’ – but his temperament has been questioned by a former neighbour who described him as a ‘bully’.
He allegedly set upon his partner and children just 48 hours after Miss Fitzgibbons shared poignant photographs of the group enjoying a sunny ‘lockdown’ walk in the country.
NINE die in string of killings as UK enters second week of quarantine
Nine people have died in a string of killings as Britain entered its second week under the coronavirus quarantine.
As well as the Sussex deaths, a man was charged with killing his wife in South Wales.
An NHS nurse was also stabbed to death in the street in South Yorkshire and three died in an apparent murder-suicide in Hertfordshire.
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