Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Omagh blaze tragedy: Three days of harrowing details that will stir up painful memories

Lorraine McGovern (left) and Arthur McElhill with their five children, (L-R) Clodagh, 19 months, Caroline, 13, Bellina, four, Sean, seven, and James, nine months, who all died in a house fire in Omagh, Co Tyrone.
Arthur McElhill with daughter Clodagh

The blaze which claimed the lives of Arthur McElhill, Lorraine McGovern and their five children was Northern Ireland’s worst ever fire tragedy.

Shortly after 4.30am on November 13, 2007, the Fire Service received reports that 4 Lammy Crescent in Omagh — where the family lived — was ablaze.

No-one could have imagined the horror which the coming hours and days would bring.

When fire crews were finally able to bring the massive blaze under control, all that remained of the end-of-terrace house was a burnt shell.

Inside lay the remains of Mr McElhill (36), Ms McGovern (29) and their five children — Caroline (13), Sean (7), Bellina (4), Clodagh (19 months) and James (10 months).

Neighbours spoke of their shock at the tragedy — yet few of them could have known the horrific events which occurred in the hours and days leading up to the blaze.

Not until the following day did police announce they were treating the incident as a murder inquiry — and 4 Lammy Crescent as a crime scene.

Then it emerged that the house had been doused with petrol and that someone, believed to be Mr McElhill, had deliberately set the home on fire.

In the following weeks, detectives began to delve further into the sinister past of Mr McElhill.

It emerged that he was a convicted sex offender who had sexually assaulted two 17-year-old girls during the early 1990s, both times using extreme physical violence. After being handed a two-year suspended sentence for the first attack in 1994, Mr McElhill was jailed for three years in 1998 after indecently assaulting another 17-year-old.

This week’s inquest, which is expected to reveal harrowing details of the family’s final minutes, will rekindle yet more painful memories. The hearing is expected to last three days.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz