A man arrested on suspicion of murder over the deaths of two women attacked in a village in West Sussex is “very unstable” in hospital, police have said.
Emergency services were called to a house on Hazel Way, Crawley Down, on Sunday morning and found the two women outside and a man seriously injured inside.
Sussex Police confirmed the women were aged 32 and 76 and that the 37-year-old suspect was found injured inside the property. He was arrested and taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Detective Chief Inspector Alex Geldart, of Surrey and Sussex major crime team, confirmed one of the victims was known to the suspect and added it was not a knife attack.
She said: “This is a tragic incident which has led to the death of two local women, one of whom was known to the suspect.
“Members of the public, police and paramedics did all they could to help the victims but sadly the two women died at the scene.
“I extend my heartfelt sympathies to their families, who are being supported by specialist trained officers. I ask that people respect their privacy at this distressing time.
“Extensive inquiries are taking place along with a forensic examination, and any speculation by the media as to what has happened is unhelpful. This was not a knife attack. A cordon will remain in the area while we gather evidence and we appreciate the support and understanding of local residents.”
Chief Superintendent Jerry Westerman, West Sussex divisional commander, added: “This is an isolated yet shocking incident that has shaken many in the community.
“We are thankful to them for supporting officers as they go about their inquiries.
“While we are investigating, officers will be available in the area over the next few days to reassure the community and if anyone wants to talk to them about their concerns or if they have any information they should talk with them.”
Three forensic tents were pitched in the street, while residents said 10 police cars had initially been dispatched to the scene to deal with the incident.
Investigators in white forensic suits have been combing the area for evidence.
A police cordon remains in place around the houses close to where the bodies were found.
A message written on a bouquet of flowers at the police cordon, which was guarded by uniformed officers, read: “A terrible tragedy. Rest in peace.”
A woman who lives nearby but did not want to give her name said: “We opened the curtains and saw the police cars and could see that something significant had happened.
The resident, who did not know those who had died, described waking up to the news of the killings as “a pure shock,” adding: “It is the sadness of it all, especially at this time of year.
“You think of the people whose lives are going to be affected. You cannot help them, so you just have a sick feeling.”
Retired milkman Tony Jones, 74, described the elderly victim as a “lovely lady and she did not deserve this”.
He recalled: “I used to go by on my float and she would say hello.”
A 70-year-old grandmother, who has lived in the area all her life but did not want to be named, said of the elderly lady who died: “It is just so sad. It feels like she was walking in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It has always been a friendly and safe area. I have never felt scared walking out at night.”
Residents near the scene had turned off their Christmas lights last night in tribute to those who had been killed, according to a local homeowner.
She added: “It was all the village lights. It was quite dark and eerie but it was a mark of respect.”
A neighbour of the elderly victim, who did not want to be named, said “we were really shocked” by the killing.
Another neighbour said: “She could be a bit abrupt, but when you got to know her she had a heart of gold. She had a great love of animals.”
Sussex Police said that no formal identification has taken place.
Forensic officers could be seen behind the heavily-taped cordon which also had several marked police lining the quiet street.
Among a clutch of flowers which had been left at the cordon was card which read: “No words I can say will make this any better. My love and thoughts go out to anyone affected by this tragedy. RIP.”