A ZIMBABWEAN woman and her teenage disabled son died in Britain in a suspected suicide case, British newspapers have reported.
The woman, identified as Catherine Mhlaba of Bulawayo was at the time of her death living in Southeend-On-Sea’s Shoebury area. Catherine is was the daughter of a founder member of the Movement for Democratic Change, the political opposition to Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe.
Reports suggest that Catherine played a key role in Southend's MDC branch.
“In the recent MDC fundaraising we used her house in cooking and doing everything needed,” said a member of the party.
Police are treating the incident as "unexplained" and are believed to be addressing the media later.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing the car explode and no other cars are thought to be involved.
Fire crews from Southend and Shoebury were called to the scene in Thorpe Esplanade last night.
The firefighters battled the flames but could not save the mum and her son.
Crews were first called to the incident at about 5.20pm.
The fire was put out by 5.50pm.
The fire that engulfed Catherine Mhlaba and her son
An Essex Police spokeswoman said: "At this stage the deaths are being treated as unexplained and an investigation has begun to establish the events leading up to the car fire."
Two people die in Thorpe Bay car fire
The stretch of road between the junctions of Thorpe Hall Avenue and Maplin Way was cordoned off by police and a temporary screen erected halfway down the road.
According to one eyewitness, the car was moving at the time it became engulfed in flames. Paul Smith's girlfriend Mandie Cotton was on her evening run with a friend at the time.
He said: "She was quite upset when she got home but we didn't know anyone was in the car until later on when we saw it online.
"The car was rolling at the time, in a normal driving position, before it exploded and she didn't know whether someone had got out of the car when a fire had started.
"She was only 25 or 50 yards away from the car when it exploded so she was pretty shaken. She said it was really frightening."
Those living near the incident tweeted their horror at watching the fire unfold.
Amy Louise Mills tweeted: "Horrific car fire along Thorpe Bay Gardens, worst thing I have ever witnessed."
A resident, jaypoulton said: "It was horrific as I was on bus when I saw it. Just hope no one else is involved in this horrific accident. RIP to the people who died in the fire and my thoughts are with your families."
Moira Mason, from Thorpe Bay, added: "I saw the road seafront in Thorpe Bay was closed.
"There were many police officers there. How terrible this was. I cannot quite believe it. Everyone I saw in the Tesco in Thorpe Bay Broadway tonight were shocked and upset.
"All our thoughts are with the families of those who died. Absolutely awful."
A reader of the local Echo newspaper added: "Absolutely devastating! I was driving past when the car exploded. My car's been obtained by the police as it got damaged in the explosion. My heart goes out to the two people and there families. RIP X" – Echo/ZimDiaspora.