Police are struggling to make sense of the mysterious deaths of a woman and her twin daughters found dead inside a locked flat in the Austrian capital of Vienna.
Firefighters discovered the rotting corpses of Vesna Milosevich, 46, and Suzana and Tanja, both 18, when they broke into the trio's apartment in a government housing block in Werndlgasse on May 21.
Suzana and Tanja were stretched out on a bed while the remains of their mother were on the floor beside them.
The results of a post mortem examination released overnight confirmed initial police suspicions Milosevich and her daughters had starved to death.
In another horrifying development, investigators now believe the women had been dead for weeks and likely perished sometime in early April, radio network wien.orf.at reported.
Police found no signs of a disturbance in the flat, no farewell notes and no evidence of violence or coercion. The only clue to their fate was a complete lack of food in the home.
Yet neighbours have told local reporters they witnessed the women carrying groceries into the complex, which is home to approximately 500 people, although it's unclear when anybody last saw the three alive.
Several people told police they heard loud arguments and strange noises coming from the family's apartment until one day in April "it all went quiet", according to Vienna.online.
Authorities are now examining the possibility the three starved themselves to death after their mother "gave up on life".
"It's not always possible to explain everything completely," the State Office for Criminal Investigation Vienna said in a statement.
However it appeared that a starvation pact "had been intended, voluntarily made or accepted", it added.
Husband's secret family
Milosevich's Serbia-based parents Stevan and Danica Ilic told Austrian media they learnt of the tragic fate of their daughter and granddaughters from a local newspaper.
They said they had last spoken to their daughter in mid-April but had been unable to reach her on the phone since then.
Milosevich and her husband moved to Vienna from their native Serbia when the twins were just seven months old, they said.
Ilic said their marriage hit the rocks when Milosevich discovered her husband had been leading a double life, dividing his time between her and their girls and a second family they had no idea existed.
"No one knew he had another family and more children there — he managed to hide it," he said, The Sun reported.
"They divorced a few years ago, and there were terrible fights after that."
There have been unconfirmed reports that Milosevich and her daughters were admitted to a women's shelter on three separate occasions while fleeing her allegedly violent husband.
Ilic said she regretted not having talked her daughter out of moving to Vienna and said if she could "go back in time, we would forbid them to go there".
"If they were left here (in Serbia), they would have been under our eye, our grandchildren would be educated, growing, and get married," she told wein.orf.at.
The couple rejected speculation by authorities that Milosevich convinced her daughters to give up on life and allow themselves to starve to death.
"For someone to die in the 21st century from starvation, that is not right," Ilic said.
"A neighbour told us that they saw Vesna with two bags of shopping recently, so the starvation theory does not seem right."
A lonely, isolated life
Authorities are struggling to piece together what life was like for Milosevich and her daughters because the trio led a hermit-like existence with no known friends or associates.
There are conflicting reports all three suffered from some form of mental illness, including speculation the mother was an undiagnosed schizophrenic.
According to Blic, a social services officer who visited the women two years ago noted Ms Milosevich experienced psychological delusions and Suzana and Tanja appeared anxious and frightened.
However, the situation was not considered serious enough to warrant intervention.
"We could not determine any danger," Vienna Children and Youth Services spokeswoman Andrea Friemel said.
Neighbours told Blic Milosevic had appeared depressed, struggled financially and described her daughters as "disturbed".
However, Friemel said both girls were known to have been "developmentally delayed" but were otherwise perfectly healthy and "should not have been helpless".
"If such a thing had been perceived, there would automatically have been more support, including financial support," she said.
"They were shy children, quiet girls in adolescence."
Investigations into the tragedy are continuing and police have called on the public to come forward with any information, no matter how small.
While the post mortem examination ruled out physical violence, the results of toxicology tests may shed further light on their deaths.
"A first toxicological examination revealed no traces of poisoning," Maierhofer said. "Detailed investigations will be carried out in the coming weeks."