Man arrested in killings of his wife and daughter

Friday, February 10, 2006

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The crime scene was as peaceful as it was heartbreaking: the bodies of a mother and her infant daughter curled up together in bed like spoons in a drawer.

For the killer, authorities say, the next several hours were frantic: A 50-mile trip to quietly put the weapon back in a gun cabinet, a series of attempts to get money and an early-morning purchase of a one-way flight to London.

On Thursday, nearly three weeks after the deaths, Neil Entwistle, husband of Rachel and father of Lillian, was arrested at a London subway station.

Prosecutors say Entwistle had mounting financial problems that he apparently hid from his wife, and initially may have planned to kill himself before deciding to flee to his native country.

Rachel Entwistle's family released a statement saying they were "deeply saddened" by his arrest.

"Rachel and Lilly loved Neil very much. Neil was a trusted husband and father and it is incomprehensible how that love and trust was betrayed in the ultimate act of violence," the statement read.

Entwistle, charged with two counts of murder, illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunition, was ordered held in custody Thursday following a hearing at London's Bow Street Magistrates Court.

He did not immediately consent to return to the United States, but the hearing was continued to today, when he is expected to formally indicate whether he would fight extradition.

District Judge Timothy Workman did not ask Entwistle to enter a plea, and said a decision on whether he would be handed over to U.S. authorities had to be made by April 15 under British law. Ben Brandon, Entwistle's attorney, told the court he may seek bail for his client today.

In Massachusetts, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said authorities believe Entwistle used his father-in-law's .22-caliber handgun to shoot Rachel Entwistle, 27, and 9-month-old Lillian on the morning of Jan. 20.

That afternoon, she said, he drove a 50-mile route from the family's rented home in Hopkinton to his father-in-law's house in Carver, where he slipped in while no one was home and returned the handgun to his father-in-law's gun collection.

The gun cabinet was locked, but Neil Entwistle knew where to find a key and had previously fired the same gun with his father-in-law for target practice, Coakley said.

He then tried "different ways to raise money" to return to England, and ended up using a credit card to purchase a one-way ticket to London over the phone at about 5 a.m. the day after the killings, Coakley said. He left three hours later on an 8:15 a.m. British Airways flight from Boston's Logan International Airport.

Coakley did not say if Entwistle tried to call family members in England to get the money for an airline ticket.

Since then, Entwistle had stayed mostly at his parents' house in Worksop, about 150 miles from London. When he was arrested Thursday, he had been visiting a friend and was not trying to escape, Coakley said.

Neil Entwistle met Rachel Souza, a Kingston native, in 1999 at the University of York, where she was spending a year abroad. They were married in 2003 and stayed in England for the next two years. Their daughter was born in April, and Coakley said Rachel wanted to return to the United States so they could be near her family.

They stayed with Rachel's parents for about six months before moving into a home in Hopkinton, a Boston suburb, about a week before mother and daughter were killed.

Coakley said Entwistle had accumulated some debts in England, and his financial troubles appeared to worsen after he was unable to find a job in the U.S. Several Internet ventures also began to falter, Coakley said.

Entwistle apparently hid his financial troubles from his family, including his wife, Coakley said. There were no reports of any domestic violence, and family and friends told investigators the couple appeared to be happily married.

"The picture we had was of a young couple starting out with a healthy future," she said.

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