Father of hotel death children 'is most wanted paedophile'

THE investigation into the deaths of two children in a Spanish hotel room took a dramatic twist today when it emerged that they were the son and daughter of an alleged paedophile who was extradited yesterday.

Rebecca Smith, five, and her brother Daniel, aged 11 months, were found yesterday in the resort of Lloret de Mar.

Their mother Lianne has been arrested on suspicion of murder by Spanish police while their father Martin Smith appeared before magistrates in Carlisle today accused of child sex offences, Cumbria Police said.

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Smith and her daughter had been missing from the Staffordshire area since December 2007.

A force spokeswoman said: "Martin Smith, 45, was brought back to the UK yesterday and appeared at Carlisle Magistrates' Court this morning to face 13 charges of sexual offences and for failing to answer police bail.

"An application was made in court for him to be remanded in custody.

"During the court hearing it was disclosed that Spanish police have informed Cumbria Constabulary that Martin Smith's wife, 43-year-old Lianne Smith, has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of his two children Rebecca, five, and Daniel, 11 months, in Spain.

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"Lianne and Rebecca had been missing from the Staffordshire area since December 2007."

Smith, from North Shields, who was one of Britain's most wanted men, was arrested in Barcelona on May 7.

He was put on a list of most wanted suspects thought to be hiding out in Spain by crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers.

He allegedly jumped bail in 2008 while facing charges of rape of a child under 16, gross indecency with a girl under the age of 16, indecent assault of a girl under 16 and attempted rape of a girl under 16.

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His partner was detained yesterday after the children's bodies were found in Room 101 in the Hotel Miramar.

This morning, Smith faced 13 charges of child sex offences said to have been committed in the Cumbria area between 1995 and 2005.

At Carlisle Magistrates' Court he faced six counts of gross indecency with or towards a girl aged under 16 between April 30, 1995 and February 1, 2001; six counts of rape of a girl aged under 16 between February 1, 2001 and April 29, 2005, and one count of attempted rape of a girl aged under 16 between April 30, 1997 and February 1, 2001.

No pleas were taken and Smith was remanded in custody until June 7 when he is due to appear at Carlisle Crown Court.

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Sources confirmed Smith was told about the deaths of the children last night.

Lianne Smith reportedly phoned reception shortly before 2pm and emergency services were called but efforts to save the youngsters failed.

Sources close to the investigation told El Mundo newspaper that police believe the youngsters were suffocated because their bodies showed no external signs of injury.

The results of post-mortem examinations are expected today or tomorrow.

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After her arrest, Smith was taken to her hotel room by police and an investigating judge to help them reconstruct events leading up to the children's deaths, El Mundo reported.

She was then transferred to a police station at Blanes, near Lloret, for questioning.

The News & Star newspaper said Smith, who was born in North Shields, was stopped by the Spanish Civil Guard in Barcelona more than a week ago and checks alerted officers there to his wanted status in the UK.

He was then taken into custody in Madrid and moves were made to extradite him.

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Smith has lived at various addresses in Carlisle and Cumbria.

Spanish newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya reported that the couple had been living together with the children in Barcelona.

Spanish police said there had been no blood at the scene of the children's death or any signs of violence.

A bouquet of flowers had been laid outside the Hotel Miramar with a note attached saying: "RIP little ones. God has gained two angels xxx."

Two pink teddy bears had been placed alongside the flowers.

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Guests at the seafront hotel described their shock at what had happened.

Andres Sonajalg, 49, from Tallinn, Estonia, said he had seen the children's mother at breakfast but that nothing about her seemed out of the ordinary.

He said: "I went out in the morning and when I came back the hotel was surrounded by police and ambulance teams.

"It was terrible. My wife and I were really sorry we couldn't do anything to help her and the kids but we didn't know anything was wrong."

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His wife, Siiri Sonajalg, 47, said: "It was very shocking. There were so many police here and we were wondering what was happening.

"The hotel and police didn't tell us anything.

"I didn't sleep very well last night because I was just wondering what the mother was feeling when she woke up that morning.

"I feel very sad. I keep thinking about what happened."

A statement issued by Staffordshire Police said they were "very saddened" to hear of the children's deaths.

"Staffordshire Police had been treating Lianne and Rebecca Smith as missing people since December 2007," it said.

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"Shortly before this time they had moved to Lichfield from Cumbria but within a short period they had moved again and their whereabouts were unknown.

"It is believed that they were with Martin Smith, who was under investigation at that time by Cumbria Police for serious sexual offences.

"Our officers have worked closely with Staffordshire Social Services, Cumbria Police and, once it was established that the family were believed to be abroad, Interpol and other law enforcement agencies to trace the family.

"We are continuing to offer our full support to the investigation in Spain and Cumbria Police."

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