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Belfast man's grief as wife found dead beside dogs after house fire

By Nevin Farrell

Published 04/01/2016

Police forensics officers at the scene of the fire at the bungalow at Archdale Drive in the Belvoir estate
Police forensics officers at the scene of the fire at the bungalow at Archdale Drive in the Belvoir estate
Husband Raymond Potts

The estranged husband of a woman whose body was found alongside her beloved dogs after a fire last night said she was a "kind person" who doted on the pets she died with.

Wilma Potts (51) lived in an end-of-terrace bungalow at Archdale Drive in the Belvoir estate, where her remains were found yesterday afternoon beside her Bichon Frise dogs Daisy and Bo.

Police said a post-mortem will be carried out and an investigation into the cause of the blaze is under way.

Raymond Potts (52), who lives nearby in the estate, spoke of his shock last night as he stood outside the house, which had been sealed off by police.

Mrs Potts' body was taken away by undertakers and forensic experts were working in the house, which had blackened windows.

Mrs Potts lived with her daughter Victoria, who was away from the property when the tragedy occurred.

Mr Potts paid an emotional tribute to his estranged wife last night.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "Like all the neighbours in here she was well-thought of. I had been with her for 19 years and I am struggling to take in the news. It is a big shock.

"It is a very hard time trying to get your head round it. It hasn't sunk in fully to be truly honest with you.

"It will probably take a while to figure out actually what happened.

"She was a nice woman, a kind person, a good person who wouldn't have done anybody a bad turn, but she would have done somebody a good turn. She kept herself to herself.

"She doted on the dogs. Whenever I took them out for a walk you didn't even need a lead because they just walked beside you. They were like wee watchdogs in the house."

Local Marie Curie cancer nurse Sabrina Calvert (28) said her father Noel told her something was wrong and she contacted emergency services.

"I went round and saw the front of the house was black and then I went to the back garden and could see there must have been a fire," she said.

"We could hear the fire alarm going and I could smell fumes and we didn't know if there was anybody in the house, so I got straight onto the police and Fire Service."

Tommy Farrell (69) said he spotted blackened windows and he and a neighbour went up the garden path and shouted Wilma's name through the letterbox, "but the fumes were just hitting you", and there was no response.

"She was a very nice lady," he said.

Next-door neighbour Gary Scott (43) arrived home from work at around 2pm: "It is terrible, it is a tragedy, especially at this time of year.

"There was no sign of flames. You couldn't have asked for a better neighbour, she was a lovely neighbour."

Kathleen Arrell (60) said: "Any time Wilma would have seen me coming up out the back she would have stood and waved out the window. She was very friendly."

Former Linfield player Ferris Lunn (83) said: "She was a good neighbour and it is a big shock."

Freddie Nixon (72) said Wilma was a "pleasant woman" and he often would have seen her sitting out at the back of her house in the summer.

Neighbour Owen Magowan (79) said he was shocked at the tragedy.

Alliance South Belfast councillor Paula Bradshaw said: "My thoughts and condolences are with the family, friends and neighbours of this poor woman who tragically died. The local community will be in shock and saddened at this news.

"I would like to praise the efforts of the Fire Service in their attempts to deal with this fire and save the life of this woman. I would also encourage anyone with information on this fire to contact the authorities so the cause can be determined."

A PSNI spokesman said: "A post-mortem will take place to determine the cause of death. An investigation into the cause of the fire and the death of the woman has now commenced."

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