Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 10 October 2015

Gutted Omagh house where dad killed his family will be demolished

Published 28/02/2011

The house set alight by convicted sex offender Arthur McElhill, killing his partner and five children, is finally to be demolished.

McElhill — who also died in the blaze — killed his family in November 2007 by deliberately starting the fire, having doused their Omagh home with petrol after his partner, Lorraine McGovern, threatened to leave him.

A chilling phone call made by Lorraine’s 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, as she pleaded for help to escape the blaze, was heard at the subsequent inquest into the horrific incident.

The boarded-up property at Lammy Crescent has remained in a derelict state since the tragedy, but is expected to be torn down in the coming weeks.

The burnt-out shell of the house was a grim reminder of what happened to Lorraine (29), Caroline, Sean (7), Bellina (4), Clodagh (19 months) and James, who was nine months old.

Thirty-six-year-old McElhill — who had a history of suicide attempts and was on the Sex Offenders Register — had been having sex with a 16-year-old girl in the weeks before the fire and was using his son’s name to groom teenage girls for sex on social |networking site Bebo.

The coroner at the inquest concluded that Ms McGovern was likely to be in the process of leaving him and this, coupled with his fear of facing prison because of his illicit relationship, contributed to him starting the fire.

However, the coroner, Suzanne Anderson, said she could not prove conclusively that McElhill had intended to kill himself. In a statement released after the verdict, McElhill's parents said their lives had been “devastated and shattered”.

McElhill had two previous convictions for rape. After sensitive negotiations between the families, residents and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the body has now agreed to buy the house and demolish it.

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “Following discussions with the family, the Housing Executive has agreed to the purchase of 4 Lammy Crescent. We plan to demolish the home as soon as practicable.

“Given the tragic circumstances surrounding this house, the Housing Executive will now begin consulting with local residents about the long-term future of the site.

“Minister for Social Development, Alex Attwood, has approved the course of action the Housing Executive has taken.”

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