SECURITY guard Dave Szmytki was returning to Barnstaple from Afghanistan last night (Tuesday) to comfort the children of his girlfriend Donna St John, one of two women stabbed to death in Barnstaple on Sunday morning. Post mortems were being carried out y

SECURITY guard Dave Szmytki was returning to Barnstaple from Afghanistan last night (Tuesday) to comfort the children of his girlfriend Donna St John, one of two women stabbed to death in Barnstaple on Sunday morning.

Post mortems were being carried out yesterday on the bodies of Donna and her friend Debbie Jones, both 35, who were found dead in the kitchen of Debbie's home in Fort Mead Close at around 9am following a fire.

Police were still waiting to interview builder Neil Langmead, 40, the husband of Debbie, who is seriously ill, but stable in North Devon District Hospital.

He was taken from the Barnstaple semi by fire fighters on Sunday morning and is also understood to have stab wounds.

Detective Superintendent Steve Carey said: "We have a suspect in hospital. It's very early days but we are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident.

"It appears to be a very rare and isolated incident, but a very tragic one."

Next of kin of the two women are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers. The victims were identified in some sections of the media yesterday by their married names. The police yesterday called them by their maiden names at the request of their families.

Yesterday police appealed for anyone who saw the two women out socialising in Barnstaple on Saturday night to contact them. They and associates were together in public houses from around 10pm and at some stage they visited Toko.

Police inquiries have established that the two women returned to Fort Mead Close accompanied by a man between 2am and 3am on Sunday. They may have had problems getting in due to a forgotten key.

Police would like to hear from anyone who saw them outside the property before the fire was discovered at around 9am.

A major incident room has been set up in Barnstaple and currently 50 officers are working on the investigation.

Forensic scientists supported local scenes of crime investigators yesterday in their search of the Fort Mead Close house.

Neighbours reported hearing "banging" sounds from the house in the early hours but the alarm was not raised until smoke was seen coming from the property before 9am.

Dave Szmytki left Barnstaple to work as a close protection officer in Afghanistan in July and was due to stay there until October. When he heard the news of Donna's death, he wrote on his Facebook page: "My heart is yours for ever until we are back together again. Love you always." He immediately made arrangements to travel home.

Hundreds of people have posted tributes on Facebook to the two victims and messages of support for their families.

Donna leaves behind daughters Natalie and Kara St John. In a heartfelt message on her mum's tribute page Kara wrote: "You was the best mum in the whole world, I love you too much to explain! Everyone is in pieces you were so special... I promise you, I'm going to make you proud. Ben and Natalie plus everyone else are here to help me through but I know you want me to keep them close! I love you, RIP."

It is thought Debbie Jones had only lived at the rented property for six weeks after moving out of the home she shared with her husband.

On her Facebook tribute page, a friend wrote: "I remember you as a lovely young lady and although I have not seen you for years, I am sadden by this tragic news. My thoughts are with your little ones and your family. RIP Debbie...sleep well."

Mr Langmead runs his own building company, while his wife ran Primrose Care & Cleaning Company.

Anyone with information should call the police on 08452 777444 quoting reference number 404 220810.