An inquest has been opened and adjourned into the deaths of a father and his two children, who he stabbed to death before killing himself.

The bodies of Michael Pedersen, 51, his son Ben, seven, and daughter Freya, six, were found next to a Saab 900SE convertible car in a tiny lane at Newton Stacey, near Andover, on Sunday.

Grahame Short, coroner for central Hampshire, heard evidence confirming the identities of the three deceased.

The Winchester hearing was also told that post-mortem examinations showed that all three died of stab wounds.

Mr Short adjourned the inquest to be resumed on a provisional date of December 5.

Mr Pedersen was a former army sergeant in the Household Cavalry unit that was hit by an IRA nail bomb in Hyde Park in 1982.

He had recently split from his wife Erica, who lives in Ashford, Middlesex.

She has released a photograph of her and the children, and has said "my angels are in heaven now."

Mr Pedersen, who had been living in Chertsey, Surrey, had taken the children to visit his father in Andover but failed to return the two youngsters to their mother by the pre-arranged time of 5pm.

The bodies were found lying behind the car at 6.15pm on Sunday by a walker, according to police.

Police were tracing the family of Mr Pedersen, who had two other children from a previous relationship, when his estranged wife raised the alarm at 7pm.

The children's maternal grandfather, William Clifford, 67, from Buckinghamshire, said the family was ''extremely distressed'' by the deaths.

Mr Pedersen, who had two children from a previous relationship, wrote on Facebook on August 31 that he had split from his second wife Erica, 43, with whom he ran a haulage business called High Road Logistics.

He said: ''Worst day of my life. Sadly have split with Erica am absolutely distraught.''

The 1982 bomb attack occurred as Mr Pedersen's unit was taking part in a changing of the guard ceremony.

Four soldiers and seven horses were killed in the explosion, which left Pedersen's horse Sefton seriously injured.

Despite 34 separate wounds that required eight hours of surgery, the animal survived and became famous for battling against the odds.

Sefton became a symbol of the struggle against the IRA and won the Horse of the Year, a prize Sgt Pedersen picked up on its behalf.