Two siblings of England cricket hero Ben Stokes were shot dead by his mother’s former partner, it emerged last night.
His half-sister Tracey, eight, and half-brother Andrew, four, were killed by their father Richard Dunn in 1988.
The family tragedy took place in New Zealand three years before 28-year-old Stokes was born.
His arrival is said to have given his mother Deborah ‘something to live for’ after the loss of the two children.
Stokes, who starred in England’s Cricket World Cup win this summer as well as the tied Ashes series, has never publicly spoken about the killings.
The revelation of the dark episode in his family’s history came from Jacqui Dunn – who is Richard Dunn’s daughter from an earlier marriage, The Sun reported.
Ben Stokes is pictured with his mother, Deb Stokes, who had two children from a previous relationship – Stokes’s half-brother and sister – who were murdered by their father in 1988
Stokes, pictured in action for England in the final Ashes Test on Saturday, has never spoken about the family tragedy in public
Dunn’s discovery that his former wife Deborah had begun a relationship with rugby coach Gerard Stokes, who is Ben’s father, led to furious rows between the pair. In April 1988 Dunn, who was jobless, shot both of his young children dead on a weekend when he had custody of the pair. He then killed himself.
Miss Dunn said: ‘Ben was born at a time of terrible tragedy. Deb was enduring every parent’s worst possible nightmare and his arrival gave her something to live for.
‘It’s incredible that he’s achieved so much as a cricketer and made her so proud.’
Miss Dunn was 18 at the time of the murders and said she remembers the ‘terrible shock’.
Police guard the house in Christchurch after Richard Dunn killed himself and Ben Stokes’s step-brother and sister in April 1988
The home of Ben Stokes’s mother Deborah after Richard Dunn attempted to burn it down on the day he murdered his two children and shit himself dead
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe Dad would do such a thing. It was just horrible. Deb was so angry and traumatised she kicked the coffin at his funeral and I’ve never seen or heard from her since. And I had absolutely no idea she’s had another son who became an England cricket star.
‘Dad worshipped his kids and became obsessed with the idea he wouldn’t be allowed to see them – he just lost his mind.
‘I was working in a shoe shop at the time and my dad came looking for me the day before the shootings, but I was on my lunch break.
‘I never saw him again and he took those lovely kids with him.’
Sealed with a kiss: England’s Ben Stokes celebrates with his wife Clare on the Lord’s outfield after England won the World Cup earlier this year
Ben Stokes’s parents, Deb and Gerard Stokes, react to their son’s World Cup-winning exploits after England beat New Zealand in a dramatic final in July
Stokes lets out a roar of celebration after his heroic innings led England to a stunning comeback victory over Australia in the third Ashes Test last month
Dunn drove to Deborah’s home after killing his children at his flat in Christchurch, South Island.
He found that she had gone to work and set fire to the building. Reports of the blazing property resulted in armed policeman going to Dunn’s apartment. Two gunshots were heard ten minutes later and police found his body alongside those of his children.
Miss Dunn said: ‘Dick took it badly when he and Deb split up but he was such a popular, easy-going guy – really laid back. No one would ever have thought him capable of such evil.
‘People who knew him well realised he could only have done such an appalling thing when the balance of his mind was disturbed. But there can never be any excuse for taking two young lives.
‘Andrew and Tracey were absolutely lovely kids – both beautiful and so full of life.’
Friends of Stokes’s mother said she found her ‘light in the darkness’ when he was born. She worked as a grief counsellor following the killings.
When Stokes was 12, he and his parents moved to the UK for his father’s new job with Workington Town rugby league club in Cumbria.
Ben Stokes is pictured left after he helped England win the World Cup in a madcap final against New Zealand earlier this year, and right with his wife Clare
Just a year ago Stokes was on trial for affray after a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017. He and his wife Clare are pictured outside Bristol Crown Court in August 2018
His parents supported him when he was accused – and later cleared – of causing actual bodily harm in a fight outside a Bristol club in 2017. Stokes cemented his place as an England cricket hero after his match-winning unbeaten 84 in the World Cup final at Lords in July, against the country of his birth.
Stokes’s parents, who have since returned to New Zealand, revelled in their son’s achievement but admitted the final had left them with divided loyalties.
‘It’s a strange one,’ his father Gerard said. ‘I’ve always said I’ll support Ben in every team he plays, but when he’s playing New Zealand he understands that we’ll support New Zealand.’
Gerard Stokes later joked he was the ‘most hated man’ in the country after his son dramatically denied the Black Caps the title.
Last month Stokes played one of England’s greatest innings ever to pull off a stunning comeback victory over Australia in the third Ashes Test.
Faced with a seemingly hopeless position he clobbered Australia’s bowlers for an unforgettable 135 not out to steer England to their highest ever winning run-chase.
His parents have moved back to their native New Zealand along with his brothers.
Stokes married wife Clare in 2017 and the pair live with their two children, Layton and Libby, in the North East.
Both he and his parents declined to comment last night.