THE devastated father of murder victims Milo and Daniel Bates has branded their killer "an evil coward."

Their mother's boyfriend, Peter Christopher Hall, 34, was given three life sentences at Manchester Crown Court after admitting murdering the children and their mum Celeste.

Ian Bates, 36, who met Celeste when she was living in Darwen, has since moved into the house where the young family was slaughtered.

Mr Bates, a philosophy graduate and former soldier, told of the pain of what had happened last September had been with him "every single day."

And he said he was still desperately struggling to come to terms with the murder of his 31-year-old former wife Celeste, their 17-month-old son Milo and his stepson Daniel, eight.

He met the outgoing and attractive Celeste through a dating agency and the couple got together while Celeste was living in Duxbury Street, Darwen

Mr Bates said: "There is no escape. No matter where I go, it is something that will live with me forever.

"At Christmas and New Year I felt I had to get away from the area so I went to Colombia. Even though I went to the other side of the world, it didn't make any difference. There is nowhere I can go to escape what happened.

"I am lucky I have my own business and have a business partner who is also a close friend and is very supportive. He carried me for the first couple of months after the murders. I still tend to drift off and can be miles away without even realising it. "I have found there have been different stages to the way I have felt. There has been no healing, just coping."

"First, when I was told what had happened, I fell into shock. I did not really face up to the reality. After a few weeks I found that I could be okay for a few hours, but then would break down.

"Now it is like a constant toothache - less intense, but permanent. It is always there and never goes away."

Ian still lives at the house where the murders took place, but the photographs of his family which used to adorn the walls have all been stored away, and the children's toys remain untouched in their rooms.

Mr Bates said: "Being here does not help me get over what has happened, but I have no intentions of moving, even though at the moment it is more painful to stay.

"Long term, if I moved out it would remain more painful for the rest of my life. If I left the house I would have nowhere to go with my memories other than their graves. Celeste and I took four years to get the house how we wanted it. We spent every weekend doing it up. If I left and sold it, the new owners would change it and everything we spent putting together would be gone."

Mr Bates described the anger he now feels for Hall: "He is an evil coward. His face is that of pure evil. He is a 6ft 3in man who has murdered an eight-year-old, a 17-month-old baby and a woman. I believe he killed them just out of spite - because Celeste was going to leave him."

Carnage scene that shocked police

SHOCKED police officers were greeted with a nightmare scene when they forced their way into Celeste Bates's home.

The emergency workers climbed through a window of the terrace house in Egerton after the alarm was raised by the victim's sister Maria Das Santos.

The unsuspecting officers stumbled into a macabre scene and found the badly beaten and mutilated bodies of former Darwen woman Celeste and her young children lying in their beds.

Within minutes the peaceful village on the road between Darwen and Bolton was flooded with police and a major murder investigation had swung into action.

Maria, who works in Simonstone and is from East Lancashire, became alarmed when Celeste failed to answer her door and the house was still in darkness. The police were called and an officer arrived within minutes and tried to force their way through the front door.

Eventually the policeman borrowed a ladder from a neighbour and climbed into the house.

He discovered the horribly mutilated body of Celeste on her bed. Her two boys, Daniel, aged eight and 17-month-old Milo were also found in their own bedrooms.

Detective Superintendent Mick Gorrill, who led the investigation, revealed how the gruesome scene had a "devastating" effect on everyone who saw it.

He said: "We all had a job to do, but it is something that will live with me for ever. The word horrific does not adequately describe what happened on that day.

"It was evil in the extreme, a terrible crime. It has had a devastating effect on Celeste's family and every member of the police team has great sympathy for them.

"Hall was a very dangerous man who was prepared to resort to terrible violence if things did not go his way."

Details of the crime were read out to a shocked courtroom in Manchester.

They were told Peter Christopher Hall was consumed by jealously.

Celeste was the first victim on the bloody afternoon. She was beaten with an antique iron and stabbed with a serrated hunting knife.

Hall then went to his home in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, showered and changed and then went to pick up baby Milo from his nursery. He battered the toddler to death with a pick axe handle. Hall then went to pick Daniel up from school. Daniel was taken back to the house where he suffered the same fate as his younger brother.

Hall was eventually arrested after a two-day manhunt and a desperate police chase which ended in a car crash.

Mr Justice Forbes, who handed out three life sentences to Hall, said: "You brutally destroyed three innocent lives. None of your victims had done you the slightest harm.

"Together they formed a decent happy, loving family unit and they fell victim to what appears to have been a jealous rage.

"No words of mine can hope to express the feelings of horror and revulsion at these wicked crimes."

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