The police handling of the disappearance of former EastEnders actress Sian Blake and her two children is to be investigated by the police watchdog, as the Met admits it has already identified some "potential issues" with how they conducted their inquiries.
Scotland Yard has confirmed that it is preparing to refer the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on Wednesday, two days after it began its own investigation into how the missing persons-turned-murder inquiry was handled, and a day after three bodies were unearthed from the garden of Blake's Kent home.
In a statement police said it had "made a voluntary referral" to the IPCC and that an "initial review has highlighted some potential issues regarding the handling and grading of the missing persons investigation".
Post mortem examinations are to be completed Wednesday to formally identify the bodies, which are believed to be that of the 43-year-old and her son, Zachary, eight, and Amon, four.
The announcement came as Blake's family members called for answers.
An aunt, who only gave her name as Terry, told the Evening Standard: "The police did take a long time to find the bodies and the family want answers. Officers are probably trying their best and we know it is difficult but we want a full investigation.
"Sian’s mum is obviously very upset. The police are coming to visit the family today.
"I didn’t know Sian’s partner much and I didn’t realise he is believed to have gone to Africa, but they obviously need to find him quickly."
Tributes to Blake have been led by former EastEnders actor Dean Gaffney, who played the Square's Robbie Fowler alongside Blake. Teddy bears, chocolates and flowers have been laid in the front garden of Blake's home.
What a sick world this sometimes can be.. 'IF' it is you, RIP Sian. Hope and pray it's not. X— Dean Gaffney (@deangaffney1) January 5, 2016
Blake and her sons went missing on December 13 after visiting family in Leyton, east London. Blake's partner, Arthur Simpson Kent, was spoken to at the family home in Erith on December 16, but was categorised as a missing person two days later when police returned to the property and couldn't find him.
Reports suggest the 48-year-old flew to Ghana before Christmas. Police on Wednesday refused to comment on that claim, with a spokeswoman simply reiterating pleas for information on his whereabouts.
The family's disappearance remained a missing person's case until Blake's Renault Scenic was found in Bethnal Green, east London, on January 3. At that point police announced that Homicide and Major Crime Command detectives would lead the hunt. That led to forensic officers searching the family home on Tuesday, and following the discovery of the bodies, the case being declared a murder investigation.
On Monday the case was referred to Scotland Yard's Directorate of Professional Standards. A spokesman said of that investigation: "The Directorate of Professional Standards was informed on January 4 and is working with the investigation team to fully understand the timeline of police interaction with the family."
Detectives are said to have broken a window at the family home on December 18 after returning to speak with Simpson-Kent, but were said to have not found anything at that time.
Neighbours said Blake, who played home-wrecker Frankie Pierre in the BBC soap in the mid-1990s, appeared "thin and frail" before she disappeared, and they feared her health was deteriorating rapidly. However, they added that the family appeared to be looking forward to Christmas and had put up a tree in the lounge.
Officers were then said to have made daily door-to-door inquiries around Blake's neighbourhood, but it took more than a fortnight for them to make a public appeal for information on the family's whereabouts. In initial appeals Simpson-Kent's name was not mentioned.
Story continues below
Previously an unknown actress, Blake's big break came when she was introduced as soul singer Frankie in EastEnders in June 1996 by series producer Jane Harris.
Her storylines saw her character frequently pursuing attached men and breaking up the marriage of Alan and Carol Jackson, played by Howard Antony and Lindsey Coulson.
According to IMDB, Blake was on the show for 56 episodes, reportedly quitting in 1997 because of hostility from viewers towards her manipulative character.
Her contemporaries on the BBC soap included Patsy Palmer and Dean Gaffney - who played Alan's stepchildren Bianca and Robbie - as well as Michael French (David Wicks) and Sylvester Williams (Mick McFarlane).
Blake also appeared in episodes of The Bill, Casualty, Doctors and Skins, and was the voice of Yugiri in 2015 video game Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward.
SEE ALSOSuggest a correction
- Sian Blake Investigators Search For Boyfriend Arthur Simpson-Kent, After Finding Three Bodies In Garden At Family Home