Belfast Telegraph

Newry house blaze in which woman died suspicious

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Footage from CCTV cameras may hold the key to a suspicious house fire where a young woman's body was recovered.

The blaze was reported to police just after 11pm on Saturday in the centre of Newry, Co Down.

The body of a woman – believed to be in her 20s and from England – was found at the house in George's Lane by firefighters as they battled to prevent flames spreading to adjacent properties in the built-up area.

It is understood the victim had recently moved to Newry, but she has still not been formally named by police.

Local people said they had witnessed a lot of activity at the property, with a number of visitors coming and going from the house at all times of the day and night in recent weeks.

The property remained cordoned off throughout yesterday as forensic officers examined the scene and tried to establish what caused the woman's death.

Last night it was still not clear whether the fire was started deliberately, or if the woman died prior to or as a result of the blaze.

An MLA for the area said the unanswered questions regarding the woman's death were "deeply concerning" for people in the area.

"People are shocked by this," said Dominic Bradley of the SDLP, who visited the scene yesterday.

"People are asking what caused the death, who was involved, how it happened?

"I'm sure in due course the police will provide us with as much information as they can."

The house where the blaze occurred is the only residential property at George's Lane, close to St Mary's church.

"I was coming from Sunday Mass and I noticed George's Lane blocked off," said Sinn Fein councillor Charlie Casey.

"Obviously some family is going to be getting bad news because this young girl was somebody's aunt, somebody's sister, somebody's daughter."

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service declined to comment on the incident yesterday.

A police spokesman urged anybody with information to contact detectives in Newry.

"At this stage, police are treating the fire as suspicious," he added.

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"People are shocked by this," said Dominic Bradley of the SDLP, who visited the scene yesterday. "People are asking, quite naturally, what caused the death, who was involved, how it happened? I'm sure in due course the police will provide us with as much information to answer those questions as they can."

CCTV may prove key in police probe

The top window of a small end house in the centre of Newry remained wide open.

Through smoke-stained glass, the torchlights of forensic officers could be seen as they searched for clues as to what had taken place.

From early morning investigators in white overalls and masks came and went from the house at George's Lane.

Hours previously police and firefighters had rushed to the scene following reports of a blaze.

As emergency services moved in to bring it under control they discovered the lifeless body of a young woman.

A sign on the side of the property signalled what may prove an invaluable tool to determining if it was accidental or murder. It warned potential thieves CCTV was in operation.

The footage it may contain could help piece together the moments before the victim's death.

A cordon was in place yesterday.

Behind it officers inspected the front door of the house, the only residential property on the street, for signs of forced entry or the potential use of an accelerant such as petrol. Those inspecting the inside were seen removing items for further analysis.

Staff at nearby businesses reported a lot of activity at the property in recent weeks, with a large number of visitors seen travelling to and from the house.

The first many heard of the tragedy was when they were blocked by police from walking towards the surrounding shops.

The area hosts a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

"It's awful," one shopper said.

"I didn't know anybody still lived down here."

Another man said he learned of the death on Facebook.

"I just heard it was a young woman in a fire, which is awful. Very sad," he said.

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