Belfast Telegraph

Villagers left numbed by car inferno suicide of local couple

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Neighbours of a couple whose bodies were found in the wreckage of their burnt-out car have told how the area has been left numbed by the tragedy.

The bodies of Cyril and Phyllis Gardner, both in their 50s and from the village of Ravernet outside Hillsborough, were found in the charred remains of their family car in a remote field on Monday afternoon.

The grandparents had put a gas canister in the boot of the Ford Focus, police believe, to ensure they had no chance of surviving the inferno.

It is understood Mrs Gardner had been battling mental health problems and was receiving inpatient treatment at a psychiatric unit in Lagan Valley Hospital.

Part of her programme included home care, and it is thought she had returned to the family house at Carnbane Road on Friday. She had no history of suicide attempts.

A former employer of Cyril Gardner said the couple — who had two daughters, Audrey and Rachael — had also been experiencing financial difficulties.

Speculation has been mounting in the area about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. However police sources have said they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the deaths were the result of a double suicide.

At the family home yesterday a clearly distressed male relative said the family did not want to speak about their loss. One of their daughters also appealed for privacy.

Post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out on the bodies of the couple today.

A police investigation was last night still ongoing.

“We are awaiting the post-mortem results and a formal identification process,” a PSNI statement said.

“At this stage police do not believe the deaths to be suspicious and no crime is suspected, therefore there will be no further details released at this time.”

Meanwhile, in the village of Ravernet, there was still a great sense of shock yesterday.

An elderly woman who lived next door to the couple described them as “good neighbours”.

“I knew Phyllis was sick,” she said. “But no-one expected anything like this to happen.

“It is terrible. We will miss them dearly.”

Another neighbour who has lived at Legacurry Road for the past 15 years said the couple were very private.

“To be honest, despite living here for 15 years, we really didn’t know them,” he said.

“It was a big surprise to hear the news. It’s very tragic, and to be honest, the whole area is just numb.”

Background

Cyril and Phyllis Gardner were found dead in a vehicle which had exploded into flames in a field near Ravernet, outside Hillsborough on Monday afternoon. The pair, who were in their 50s, leave behind two daughters, Audrey and Rachael, and a grandson, Noah. They had not been seen since Sunday and a spokesman for the PSNI last night renewed appeals for anyone with knowledge of the couple’s movements before the time of the fire to make contact.

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