Screams were heard from a house in a quiet cul de sac where three women died before “absolute chaos” broke out as armed police looking for their killer put the road in lockdown, a neighbour has said.

A resident living in Ashlyn Close in Bushey, Hertfordshire said the tragedy that unfolded at around 7pm on Tuesday was “absolutely traumatic”.

Police have launched a manhunt for Kyle Clifford, 26, from Enfield, north London in connection with the deaths, and have warned that he may be armed with a crossbow.

Bushey triple murder
Members of the public have been warned not to approach Kyle Clifford, who may have a crossbow (Hertfordshire Police/PA)

The 46-year-old who lives near the scene, did not wish to share her name but said she works in the media.

She told the PA news agency: “It was between 6.30pm and 7pm last night and it literally just sounded like kids, somebody screaming, and then it was more shrill and I was like, ‘that’s definitely a woman screaming’, and within 15 minutes, it was absolute chaos.

“We had armed police running down, screaming ‘stay in your house’… they shut us off and basically put us into lockdown.”

They said multiple ambulances, helicopters and “at least 16 police cars” arrived at the scene quickly, with armed police going from house to house to question locals, request doorbell camera footage and tell them to stay indoors.

Map showing area of Hertfordshire murder manhunt
(PA Graphics)

She added: “It’s really, really stressful now to think that that happened in such a close vicinity and none of us were aware and none of us could help.

“It’s just absolutely traumatic, I think, for the family involved, for everyone.

“I think that’s the stressful thing, that it happened at peak family time between 6pm and 7pm, when people were probably cooking for their kids and getting their kids ready for bed, and all of us in a tight little road, completely unaware of the trauma and tragic circumstances that other people were going through at that particular time.”

Investigators believe Clifford could be in Hertfordshire or north London.

Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said she is being kept fully updated about the inquiry into the “truly shocking” deaths.

Officers and emergency medical crews including two air ambulances were sent to try to save the women, who were related, but they all died at the scene.

A police car in front of crime scene tape
Police at the scene in Ashlyn Close, Bushey (James Manning/PA)

Local councillors for the North Bushey area said they were “deeply shocked and saddened” by the news of the deaths.

A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she did not know the victims well but they were a friendly family.

“We would see them every day passing by and they would say good morning,” she said.

“It’s really sad what’s happened, very shocking.”

Another neighbour, Riaz, who is in his 50s and declined to give his surname, said: “This has been an awful situation and I can’t even imagine what the family must be going through.”

Local councillor Laurence Brass, who also lives nearby, told the BBC the area is “a typical leafy British suburb”.

He said: “At about eight o’clock last night, I was watching the football on television, and suddenly a helicopter landed on the lawn outside my flat, which is at the top of this road, and then my phone started going, and I was told that there was a major incident here in Bushey and we should all keep away because there was somebody apparently on the run.

“This is not something that happens in Bushey.

“We can’t remember a murder in our rather quiet neck of the woods, so (it’s a) terrible shock and our sympathies and prayers and thoughts are with the families of the three women.

“That really is a terrible thing to happen to anybody, and I’ve gathered they’re all from the same family, which obviously makes it even more tragic, and we’ll do everything we can as the local council to add our source of comfort where we can.”

Detective Superintendent Rob Hall from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit called for anyone with information to come forward.

“Whilst we are still in the early stages of this investigation, we are actively seeking Kyle Clifford who we believe could be in the areas of Hertfordshire or north London,” he said.

“Given the serious nature of the incident, I would ask anyone who knows where he is to contact police immediately. If you believe you see him, please do not approach him and dial 999 straight away. He may still be in possession of a weapon.

“Our inquiries will continue over the coming days to ascertain the full circumstances of what happened but I would also like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone who was in the area around Ashlyn Close from around lunchtime on Tuesday until 7pm, and believes they may have seen anything that could assist the investigation, to contact us.”

An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called around 7pm on Tuesday July 9 to a property in Ashlyn Close in Bushey.

“Three ambulances, a rapid response vehicle, an ambulance officer vehicle, the Hazardous Area Response Team, the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance and London Air Ambulance were sent to the scene.

“Sadly, despite the team’s best efforts, three women were pronounced dead at the scene.”

Police man in road that is taped off by police tape
Residents described their street as being on ‘lockdown’ following the incident (James Manning/PA)

Local councillors for the area Louise Nicolas, Alan Matthews and Paul Richards said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic news that three women have lost their lives in a violent incident which took place in the heart of our local community.

“As North Bushey councillors, we extend our thoughts and condolences to their families and all those affected.

“We would encourage anyone who has information relevant to the inquiry to contact police.”

The previous government had considered tightening the laws around crossbows after would-be assassin Jaswant Singh Chail was encouraged by an AI chatbot to break into Windsor Castle on Christmas Day 2021 with a loaded crossbow to kill the late Queen.

Currently, there is no requirement to have a licence for a crossbow, but it is illegal to carry one in public without a reasonable excuse.