A murder inquiry is under way after a mother and her three-year-old daughter were shot dead, reportedly just hours before a family court hearing.

Residents in Braintree, Essex, have named the woman as Christine Chambers, 38, and Shania.

Officers and dog handling teams were at the scene in Bartram Avenue at 5am, where they found the bodies of the victims.

A man, named locally as David Oakes, is under police guard in hospital following the incident, which detectives are treating as a double murder.

According to the dailymail.co.uk, Christine was in a dispute with Shania’s father, David, and they were due to attend in court today.

Neighbours have also claimed Christine’s second daughter, Chelsea, eight, fled the scene to be with the father, who is not David.

Chris Lane, spokesman for Essex Police, described the incident as “tragic and horrible”.

He said: “In the early hours of this morning we received a call relating to a shooting incident at a property in Braintree, Essex.

“Inside the property we found the bodies of a woman and child.

“There has been a significant police response to this very serious incident. It’s clearly a tragic and horrible event.

“A man is currently in hospital under police guard. His injuries are not immediately life-threatening.

“We are not searching for anyone with regards to this incident.”

The Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate are at the scene and investigating.

One friend, a 36-year-old mum of two, said: “I woke up and it was like a horror film, police with guns. It’s very sad news, it’s unbelievable.”

Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 0300 333 4444.