Flowers only clue to tragedy at idyllic Costa del Sol residence

Murder-suicide family were extremely private but well-liked in community

Philip Wood (56), his wife Sheila (54) and daughter Sophie (28) who were found dead inside a house in Mijas, Spain, earlier this week. Photograph: Solarpix

Philip Wood (56), his wife Sheila (54) and daughter Sophie (28) who were found dead inside a house in Mijas, Spain, earlier this week. Photograph: Solarpix

Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 14:02

The Torrenueva residential complex is exactly the kind of the place that northern Europeans have in mind when they think of fleeing to the warmth and calm of the Costa del Sol. Situated on a hill next to the white-washed town of Mijas, it has around 300 villas in its quiet winding streets, most of which have spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea below.

But two bunches of flowers with messages of condolence left by friends at the front gate of number 226 Calle Tarifa reflect how the discovery on Wednesday of the bodies of three of Torrenueva’s residents – Briton Philip Wood (56) and his Irish wife Sheila (54) and daughter Sophie (28) – has stunned the local community.

All three were found in their villa at number 226 with gunshot wounds, possibly from several days previously. The civil guard, which is handling the case, has been working with the theory that it was a murder-suicide and is not seeking any other suspects.

Sources close to the investigation said that a suicide note was left behind. Local media has reported that it was written by Mr Wood, although this not been confirmed.

“People come here from abroad looking for quiet and they get it here,” said Salvador Martín, who works as a taxi driver in Mijas. “I’ve worked here for 21 years and I’ve never seen anything terrible like this. Maybe people get a bit drunk sometimes, but nothing serious.”

The Irish are a small but visible community in Mijas. They have only around 600 residents officially registered, but many more come for holidays and to play golf and there are two Irish bars. There are nearly 16,000 British registered in the town.

Craig Beck, a close friend of Mr Wood who owns a nearby bar where the British man used to drink regularly, remembers the family as extremely private people who were nonetheless well-liked.

“Philip was exceptionally intelligent, a very nice chap,” he told The Irish Times, remembering a golf and rugby mad man who drank Guinness in moderation and was “always joking and laughing.”

When the family moved into the Torrenueva area seven years ago, from nearby Miraflores, Mr Wood told Mr Beck that “he worked for pleasure and not for necessity.” Having received a substantial redundancy package after working at a bank, Mr Wood was employed as a financial advisor specialising in Spanish tax law, Mr Beck says.

Another British neighbour, Katie Barker, remembers Mrs Wood as a “happy and cheerful presence” around Mijas, who used to get her hair done in a nearby hairdresser’s.

But more recently, Mrs Wood was seen much less around the area, because she had been severely hampered by a physical condition. Friends of the family say she had suffered from cancer many years before and that the illness may have struck again. The Wood’s daughter, Sophie, had a condition that meant she had the mental age of a child.

Mr Wood, recalls Mr Beck, was a “totally devoted father” who help his daughter with the most basic tasks that her disability prevented her from doing, such as cutting up her food for her.

“He never once complained about anything. He was always running around after his wife, getting takeaways for her and so on and doing the same for his daughter.”

Mr Beck is surprised at reports that the suicide note had cited the burden of the daughter’s disability as a motive for the tragedy.

He said the family had seemed to be more affected by financial problems, with the economic crisis apparently hitting Mr Wood’s business hard, prompting him to sell their BMW and Mini Cooper.

“He probably had a lot of money and then it went,” says Mr Beck.