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Police probe fatal Tyrone house fire after body of Ernest Johnston is found

By Staff Reporter

Published 11/06/2015

A forensic officer examines the victim’s house yesterday
A forensic officer examines the victim’s house yesterday

A house fire which claimed the life of a Co Tyrone man is believed to have started accidentally.

Ernest Johnston (52) was discovered dead early yesterday.

He was found after concerned relatives forced their way into his home in Dungannon.

There had been a fire at the property but the exact circumstances of what happened, or even when the blaze started, are still unclear.

Neighbours said Mr Johnston had not been seen for several days.

The fire had extinguished by the time firefighters arrived.

Mr Johnston, a father-of-two, had been living with his son Stuart, who was not at home at the time.

The blaze occurred at a terraced house at Eastvale Avenue. The fire service received a call from the police shortly after 1am yesterday.

The dead man's brother-in-law Lawrence Fair said neighbours reported hearing a smoke alarm in the early hours of Sunday morning but did not pay it any notice.

"Somebody heard the smoke alarm but never passed any remarks on it," he said.

Mr Fair said the family started to become alarmed after Mr Johnston had not been in contact with anyone.

"Last night my sister and her girl went over to the house, but couldn't get in.

"They had a key but there was a lock on the door. They busted the lock down, checked the house and found him."

Mr Fair said he understood the fire may have started in a bedroom.

Referring to Mr Johnston, he said: "He was a brilliant man and I've good memories of him."

The victim's step-brother, Alan Graham, said the family was in shock.

"I can say today on behalf of the family that he will be deeply missed and it is a sad loss," Mr Graham said.

He described the victim as "a wonderful man who would help anybody".

The deceased's dog was taken away yesterday and appeared to be unharmed.

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott said the community was in shock.

"I would like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of the man who died," he said.

"This is obviously an extremely distressing time for the dead man's family and friends and my sympathies go out to them."

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: "Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of a man in the Eastvale Avenue area of Dungannon, following a fire in a house.

"Police inquiries are continuing."

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