“Our village is hurting.” That was the abiding sentiment as the Allerton Bywater community came together to pay its respects to a mother and her two children who are thought to have been murdered by her estranged husband.
Dozens of people gathered close to the home on Beeston Way, at the Millenium Village, where Geraldine Newman and her children, 11-year-old Shannon and Shane, six, were found dead on Tuesday.
They held a three-minute silence for the family, who are believed to have been attacked by Ms Newman’s estranged husband, Paul.
Post-mortem examinations were being carried out yesterday to determine the cause of their deaths but Wilko shop manager Ms Newman, 51, is thought to have been beaten to death with a hammer.
Her two children, who were found upstairs, are believed to have been stabbed.
After the killings Paul Newman drove more than 150 miles to north Wales before apparently jumping to his death from cliffs at South Stack, near Anglesey.
Allerton Bywater parish councillor Lynne Tomlinson said people were struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
“This village is hurting,” she said. “We are a small mining community and even though the pit is gone there is still that sense of community here. It’s difficult to comprehend.”
Paul Newman was jailed for 17 weeks in 2013 for what court papers described as a “sustained attack” on Ms Newman,
The couple had been separated for some time and Newman was living in Normanton before his death.
The spot where his body was found is close to where Ms Newman’s parents live, although he is not thought to have approached them before his apparent suicide.
Josh Flood, who knew Newman, said he had last seen him last week and described him as a “normal bloke”.
Mr Flood, who laid flowers at the spot, said: “I’m a father myself, a family man – my oldest is five, my youngest two – and I don’t know what has gone through his head to hurt his own kids.
“It’s devastating, I don’t really know what to say.”
Mr Flood’s daughter attended St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School with Shane Newman, who he described as “bubbly”.
Pupils were told about what had happened yesterday, as were students at St Wilfrid’s Catholic High School, where Shannon was a year seven pupil.
Mr Flood added: “The school initially tried to keep it quiet from the children. It’s heartbreaking – we were crying last night when we heard about it.”
A growing mound of flowers, soft toys and balloons were left inside the police cordon, which remained in place at the scene yesterday.
A tribute on one bouquet said: “Heaven has gained three special angels.”
And over 100 people - including several of Ms Newman’s colleagues at Wilko - gathered outside the house last night to pay their respects. Many brought candles to lay outside the front door.
Some parents brought their children along with them - many of whom attended school with Shannon and Shane.
The Reverend Diane Flynn, vicar of St Mary the Less in Allerton Bywater, led those gathered in a short ceremony.
People held hands, hugged one another and wept as Ms Flynn described how the community was trying “to make sense of these attacks”.
The vigil was followed by a three minute silence. A minute for each of the victims, punctured poignantly only by the laughter of a toddler.
One neighbour attending, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s devastated all of Allerton Bywater. Just seven weeks ago, we were stood here singing carols, and now this?
“My son didn’t sleep last night after I told him.”
She described how many in Allerton Bywater were displaying three candles in their windows as a mark of respect.
After the silence, Curate Viv Masters led the congregation in prayer. Her words echoed the feelings of everyone gathered last night: “We wait - and we cry - why?”