UK
22/09/2015 12:36 BST | Updated 22/09/2015 16:59 BST

Derbyshire Gas Explosion: Police Treat Shelley Saxton-Cooper's Death As Murder

Police investigating the deaths of a married couple whose Derbyshire home caught fire in gas explosion believe the husband may have murdered his wife before the blast.

Officers say Shelley Saxton-Cooper was wounded before her home in Riddings was destroyed by an explosion and fire around 7.30am on Sunday. They are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.

It has since been reported that Saxton-Cooper died as a result of stab wounds.

Forensic teams are working to piece together the cause of the Valley View Road blast in which her husband Simon Saxton-Cooper, also died, the Press Association reported.

Chief Superintendent Sunita Gamblin earlier said: "We believe that Shelley, who was 45-years-old, was wounded before the explosion and fire and we are treating her death as murder.

"We're still unable to say how either she or her husband died as post mortem examinations haven't been completed.

"Police, crime scene investigators and fire investigation specialists are working through the scene of the fire to find out exactly how it started and what happened.

"We don't believe, at this time, that anyone else is involved."

Julie Vallance, who has lived on Valley View Road for 20 years, paid tribute to the Saxton-Coopers, describing them as a “happy couple”, The Guardian reported.

Floral tributes have been left at the scene which remains cordoned off.

Off-duty firefighter Paul Archer has also told how he tried in vain to search for the couple. He told the BBC: "I just thought I would try and do my bit." He describes the deaths as "very, very sad".

Fire crews were initially prevented from entering the damaged house as it was structurally unsafe.

A Derby Police spokesperson told media at the scene on Sunday: "The fire service attended and found the house ablaze. They extinguished the flames and then found the house was not safe enough to enter. They were able to make the house safe enough to enter, and I can confirm they have found two bodies in the property.

"They are believed to be a husband and wife who lived in the property but we have not been able to identify them at this time. We have a difficult job ahead of us and while we're doing that we're thinking of the families."

Neighbours described hearing "a loud bang" on Sunday and say they saw a plume of smoke rising from the house shortly before the emergency services were called, the Mail Online reported.

A woman living on Chestnut Avenue, leading off Valley View Road, told the website: "There was an explosion and we know that there has been a house burnt to the ground. We have heard a lot of fire engines and sirens go past."

Another resident living on Oakland Crescent, near Valley View Road, said: "There were definitely people inside.

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"I know the person. I don't want to talk about it."

Mark Robins, 32, who lives nearby, told the Derby Telegraph: "When you are lying in bed, you don't know what is going on but it sounded like a loud bang, followed by a noise that sounded like rubble going down into a skip."

Another resident told the newspaper: "Around 7.30am, there was a noise that was like a 'woof', followed by a second one and I looked out of the bedroom window and could see a large plume of smoke rising.

"We went into another bedroom and we could see the flames between the houses and we could see them licking round what had to be the outside of the house."