A petition has been set up over fears that a man who murdered his wife and four step-children near Helston could be eligible for parole within a matter of years.

The murder of 36-year-old Lesley Ford and her teenage children Sarah Jane, Anne Marie, Steven and Craig, at their home in Carnkie in 2000, rocked the community and is still remembered to this day as being one of Helston's darkest times.

The children had been pupils at Helston Community College, where students at that time still remember being taken into the lecture theatre and given the horrifying news that their friends had been found murdered.

In May 2001 Lesley's husband, Lee Ford, eventually admitted all five murders in court and was given five life sentences.

Now Nicki Budden has set up a petition, calling to ensure Ford remains in prison "and never comes out". It has been signed by more than 1,350 people.

It states: "Sometime in August/September 2000 Lee Ford murdered my ex-husband's sister Leslie Ford [sic] and her four children. Lee Ford was their step-father. The children were 17,16,14 and 13 at the time of the killings.

"He was found guilty and is currently serving a prison sentence of 27 years. He is eligible to begin to apply for parole in the next three years. We have to live with what he did for the rest of our lives and feel that he should never be released.

"The effect their deaths had on anyone that knew them was catastrophic. From family to all their school friends."

However, although the petition says that Ford could be eligible for parole within three years, the Parole Board has confirmed to the Packet that this is not quite correct.

Ford will not be eligible for even potential release until 2027, once he has served the entire 27 years' minimum term.

However, in some cases a 'pre-tariff review' can be carried out two years before a prisoner reaches their minimum sentence, in which an assessment is made over whether they will be suitable for release once they have reached their tariff.

It will not be known whether Ford will be eligible for this until 2025. The Secretary of State considers such cases and then makes a referral to the Parole Board.

Just one in four people serving a life-sentence are deemed suitable for release after their minimum term, with 75% remaining in custody. Assessments are then carried out every three years after.

Ford murdered his wife and four step-children with a rope he found in the garage.

Although the exact dates of their deaths are not known, police determined that they took place at some point between late August and September 2000, based on text messages sent by Sarah Jane to colleagues at the McDonald's restaurant in Falmouth where she worked.

The last text from her was sent at 2.37pm on August 30, 2000, while the final incoming message was sent by a friend on September 7, reading: "Are you still alive?"

Bristol Crown Court heard in 2001 that a row had broken out between Lee and Lesley Ford in late August, after she threatened to stop him seeing her children. Lesley feared that Ford had begun a relationship with Sarah Jane.

After the killings Ford hid their bodies in a woodshed at the bottom of the garden, before later moving two of the bodies to a field four miles away, after police began to get involved.

Ford had tried to cover up the deaths, explaining the children's absence at school to food poisoning and later that they had moved away from the area, even returning their text books.

He was subsequently reported missing, before being stopped by police while driving across Bodmin Moor in early October 2000.

He spared the two children he had with Lesley, sending them to live with relatives.