Crime Correspondent Deborah McAleese reports on the father of five's sordid past
A sex abuse victim of the Omagh father who is believed to have torched himself, his partner and their five children to death, told last night how she had spent years living in fear of him.
The 31-year-old woman was 17 when she was indecently assaulted by Arthur McElhill in 1993 after he forced his way into her home in Omagh.
He received a two-year suspended sentence for the attack.
Just a few years later he received a five-year prison sentence at Dungannon Crown Court for indecently assaulting another 17 year-old girl in 1996.
The girl was an international show jumper who was at a three-day competition at an equestrian centre in Irvinestown when he attacked her after entering her caravan while she was sleeping.
Last night Mr McElhill's first sex abuse victim said that the blaze - which he is thought to have started, killing himself, his partner Lorraine McGovern and their five young children Caroline (13), James (10), Bellina (4), Clodagh (18 months) and baby James - has left her deeply upset.
"When I heard the news I felt sickened. It is horrendous. But it is not a case that I did not believe it. He was capable of it. After the attack on myself I knew it wasn't over. He went on to attack another girl in Irvinestown," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
Speaking about her ordeal on the day he attacked her, the woman, who did not want to be named said that she believed her life was in danger.
"My cousin saved me after I called out for help. It was the last chance I had to call out. I knew I was in real danger. He was trying to suffocate me. The punches were getting really, really bad and I blacked out for a while. He was so violent. I was so young," she said.
The woman added: "I was afraid of him all my life. Since he came to live in Omagh I met him a few times and he scared me.
"I had a bad dream about it all last night. I do not know how to feel. I'm so sad for the lady and the children. I had always felt concerned for them because I knew what he was like and what he was capable of.
"For me, personally, I always knew he was a bad man. I don't know if he ever changed. It is scary to think about what he could have done to me after seeing what he is supposed to have done to that woman and those children."
Police were unable to comment about Mr McElhill's past record and they have not confirmed that he is the chief suspect in the Omagh fire as their investigations have not yet been completed.
A spokesman yesterday said a post-mortem examination was due to take place over the next few days.
The spokesman added: "The house is a crime scene and will continue to be examined by police and forensic experts. We will not be commenting any further on the progress of this process."