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Dad was army sergeant who survived terrorist nail bomb in Hyde Park
5:56am Tuesday 2nd October 2012 in Andover
Detectives are trying to establish why a former army sergeant who survived a devastating IRA bomb blast stabbed his two young children to death before taking his own life in a Hampshire countryside bridleway.
The bodies of Michael, 51, Ben, seven, and Freya Pedersen, six, were found next to a Saab 900SE convertible car in the tiny lane at Newton Stacey, near Andover, on Sunday.
Mr Pedersen, a former army sergeant in the Household Cavalry unit that was hit by an IRA nail bomb in Hyde Park in 1982, had recently split from his wife Erica, according to reports.
Detective Superintendent Tony Harris, of Hampshire police, said that the ''tragic'' incident happened while the former serviceman was on an arranged visit with the two children from his estranged partner.
Mr Pedersen, of Chertsey, Surrey, had taken the children to visit his father in Andover but failed to return the two youngsters to their mother by the pre-arranged time of 5pm.
The bodies were found lying behind the car at 6.15pm on Sunday by a walker, according to police.
Mr Harris said police were tracing the family of Mr Pedersen, who had two other children from a previous relationship, when his estranged wife raised the alarm at 7pm.
He said he believed the deaths happened sometime that afternoon and he was not looking for anyone else as part of the inquiry.
Surrey Police said the case was being referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission as the force have had previous contact with the Pedersen family.
A force spokesman added: ''Following the sad events of Sunday, September 30, the force will be referring this contact to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for review.''
Mr Harris said a Home Office pathologist visited the scene, with post mortem examinations expected to take place in the coming days to establish a cause of death for each family member.
The policeman added: ''At this time it appears the children suffered fatal stab wounds and Mr Pedersen took his own life shortly afterwards.''
Describing the incident, he continued: ''Any scene you go to with children involved is distressing for the officers, we have given them support and they continue to receive support.
''It is very tragic, it's a dreadful loss of life, one of the most tragic cases I have had to deal with.''
The children's mother was informed by a family liaison officer and was being provided with support, he said.
The children's maternal grandfather, William Clifford, 67, from Buckinghamshire, last night said the family was ''extremely distressed'' by the deaths.
Speaking outside his daughter's home in Ashford, Middlesex, he added: ''We are obviously devastated and what we would ask is that you respect our privacy in this matter.
''It is extremely distressing and that is all I want to say.''
The 1982 bomb attack hit as Mr Pedersen's unit was taking part in a changing of the guard ceremony.
Four soldiers and seven horses were killed in the explosion, which left Pedersen's horse Sefton seriously injured.
Despite 34 separate wounds that required eight hours of surgery, the animal survived and became famous for battling against the odds.
Sefton became a symbol of the struggle against the IRA and won the Horse of the Year, a prize Sgt Pedersen picked up on its behalf.
Alex Chalmers said he served in the Household Cavalry with Mr Pedersen and had seen him in July at an event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the bombing.
''He was in good spirits. He didn't mention anything at all, he was just good humoured,'' Mr Chalmers said.
''I only saw him twice since I left the Army, the other time was at a comrade's birthday a couple of years ago.
''I'm just shocked and saddened. There's two young kids there who had their lives ahead of them.''
Mr Pedersen worked as a lorry driver after leaving the service, according to reports.