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Town in shock at expat double murder

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Town in shock at expat double murder
Peter and Jean Tarsey's house in Xaló, where their bodies were discovered on Sunday. Photo: Fiona Govan
14:08 CEST+02:00
The expat community was in shock on Tuesday as details emerged of the retired couple shot dead at close range in their Costa Blanca villa.

Peter (who went by his second name of David) and Jean Tarsey, were found dead at their home in Xaló on Sunday afternoon.  Police have said they were shot at close range and were found in each other’s arms up to two days after they were killed.

The community of the Valencian town  of Xaló - known as Jalón in Castillian - were searching for answers on Tuesday as speculation mounted as to a motive for the double murders.

"We have no idea at the moment what happened," Joan Miquel Garces, the mayor of Xaló, told The Local. "Police have told me that they have discarded the theory of a murder/suicide and are looking for a perpetrator of a double killing, but beyond that we don’t know anything yet."

The mayor of the town of 2,000 permanent residents of which 360 are foreign - mostly British - expats, said the killings had shocked the community.

"This is a very quiet and safe community, we do not have a crime problem here," he said before  admitting that: "yes, we get the odd burglary but I would not describe it as crime spree."

He confirmed that he had been informed that the couple had been shot at close range. "He was shot in the back of the head and she in the face, there were cartridges on the ground but no weapon," he said.

The two sons of the couple, named locally as Alexei and Sascha, were expected to arrive in the town on Tuesday afternoon. "The Guardia Civil told me that the sons have been informed and that they are on their way and due to arrive soon. I can only send my condolences to them on behalf of everyone in the town," he said.

The town just inland from the Costa Blanca some 40 minutes drive from Benidorm is very popular with British, German and Dutch expats and the Saturday market draws crowds from across the region.

Residents there spoke of their shock over the double killing and paid tribute to Peter, a former British Olympic diver at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and his wife Jean.

"Peter went by his middle name, David," explained Lynn O’Connor, a Jalón resident of eight years. "I saw him almost every day when he would walk Domino, a little black and white dog that they had rescued. Then he would stop off at the Aleluya restaurant for a coffee."

Another friend, Cathy Cunningham, a resident in Jalón for 15 years, described Jean as a "lovely lady".

"She used to help out at the kennels near her house, they were a super couple, very well-liked and we are all very saddened," she told The Local.

A waitress at the Aleluya said all the staff were devastated about David, who she described as a regular. "We are shocked about what has happened to and just hope that the police will find out very quickly who did this."

The owner of The London Boutique, a ladies’ fashion in the historic centre of Jalón, said that Jean had often helped out by modeling clothes for her. "She was very elegant, and very integrated in the community and spoke Spanish. What has happened has come as a horrible shock," she said.

Jennie Kirkman had met Jean just two weeks before her death when she modeled outfits from the London Boutique at a charity fashion show in aid of a local stray dogs’ charity.

"I took the video because my daughter was one of the models in it and Jean was the final lady to take to the catwalk," she told The Local. "I keep watching the video because I just can’t believe what happened to her. It’s too horrible to contemplate," she said.

In the video, given to The Local, Jean is seen last in line and wearing a blue outfit.

Fears that the murders were the result of a robbery gone wrong have caused unease among neighbours of the couple.

Other theories are also being discussed. "I thought perhaps they might have been killed by Russians," said Susan Keightly, who lives opposite the Tarseys and is a long time friend.

She told The Local that she was "heartbroken" to learn about the brutal double murder. 

"They were a really lovely couple and I just can't believe what has happened to them, I am heartbroken," she said.

"They were very security-conscious because there had been a couple of robbery attempts in the last year.

"Unlike some of us who leave our doors open they always had the gate locked and the door to their house locked, even when they were at home. So I can't imagine what happened there."

She said that she had friends over on Sunday lunchtime but that no-one had heard any shots.

"The first we learned of it was when the police arrived and sealed the house as a crime scene," she told The Local.

"The whole community is very shocked by this. We are all asking if this was a robbery, or some personal vendetta, although they were such lovely people I can't imagine who would want to harm them."

She added that she feared they may have been targeted after falling out with some eastern European workmen.

"I know that they recently had some workmen in who were from Russia and David wasn’t completely happy with what they did, perhaps he refused to pay and this is retaliation," she speculated.

Mrs Keightly added that the couple had had their house on the market for several years but had been unable to sell it.

"They wanted to move to Mallorca where their son Sasha lives, to be closer to him and their grandchildren, but the market is dead and no-one can sell their houses at the moment," Mrs Keightly said.

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