Community pay tribute to Billingshurst couple found dead on Christmas

The scene at the Billingshurst home on Christmas Day PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL SUS-141230-114140001
The scene at the Billingshurst home on Christmas Day PICTURE BY EDDIE MITCHELL SUS-141230-114140001

THE discovery of a mother and father found dead in their home on Christmas Day sent shockwaves around the Billingshurst community.

Jan Tshabalala, 33, and his wife Julia, 30, were found dead at their home in Groomsland Drive, Billingshurst, just after 9am on Christmas Day.

The couple have two children, aged six and four, who were not believed to have been at home at the time of the incident and are currently being cared for by relatives, police said.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Rymarz, of the Surrey and Sussex major crime team, who is leading the investigation, has confirmed a note was found inside the home. They are investigating reports of a ‘suicide pact’.

He said: “There was some correspondence at the scene.

“We are examining that to ascertain who has written it.”

There is no evidence at this stage to suggest the family had been suffering from financial trouble, as reported in the national media, he added.

He said: “I don’t know where that speculation has come from. There is nothing at this stage to indicate that, however, we have got financial investigators working as part of the investigation.

“We are looking at every possible motive that may have prompted this terrible incident.”

DCI Rymarz added Julia’s ‘unexplained’ death is the central focus of the police investigation.

He said: “We can state that Jan’s death was self-inflicted but Julia’s is unexplained, which is the central focus of the investigation and it may take some time to ascertain the full circumstances of her death.

“This is a tragic case and our thoughts are very much with the family at this time.

“We are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths but would welcome information from anyone who may have had contact with either person in the days before their deaths which may help to shed light on this case.”

The Rev Brian Pritchard is the vicar at St Mary’s Church in Billingshurst. He said the tragedy had affected the whole community.

“I suspect nobody in our village has been left unmoved by this heartrending tragedy – and at Christmas too when everyone is aware of the delight for so many families of being together with their children.

“We can’t speculate about all that led up to this sadness, but we can express our love and concern for those who are affected.

“We will be remembering all members of this family in the weeks to come as they seek to come to terms with what has happened.”

Sarah Jones, a friend and former work colleague of Julia, described her as a ‘caring, kind, sensitive and beautiful person’.

She said: “She was a very good mother and always put her children first. Julia lived for her children as she cared about them deeply.”

Anyone with information should email 
101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or phone police on 101, quoting Operation Redgate.