Belfast Telegraph

Sister bearing birthday gift found caravan tragedy couple Nan and Francie O'Reilly

By Deborah McAleese

The bodies of tragic caravan couple Nan and Francie O'Reilly were discovered by the dead woman's sister when she called to deliver a birthday present.

Mrs O'Reilly's sister arrived with the gift for her on Wednesday afternoon - her birthday - but was unable to gain access to the mobile home in Newcastle, where the couple had lived since the 1970s.

She called for assistance from members of staff at the caravan site, who were able to open the door.

It was only then that the elderly couple's bodies were discovered.

Initial investigations suggest that they may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning from their gas heater.

It is understood that Mr O'Reilly had intended to replace the heater this week as he was concerned that it was not working properly.

Health and safety workers were at the scene of the incident yesterday to carry out investigations.

Post-mortem examinations have also been carried out to determine the cause of death.

Family and friends of the couple, who were in their 70s, have said they were "made for each other" and described them as "walking saints".

Their niece Joanna O'Reilly said the family was devastated by what had happened.

"They were just made for each other and they just lived for each other. It is just absolutely devastating.

"They were fantastic - two wee walking saints," said Joanna.

She added: "Francie just idolised Nan and Nan just idolised him. They were just that content with each other. It is an awful shock."

A neighbour, Janet McNally, described the pair as "the loveliest wee couple".

"I knew something was wrong when I came home from work because I saw the flashing blue lights behind me and their blinds were still closed. It is very hard to take in," she said.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said she was "shocked and deeply saddened".

"I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the familes of these two people, who are undoubtedly going through a deeply traumatic and difficult time," she added. The couple's bodies were discovered at around 3pm on Wednesday at their mobile home, which is based in a site dedicated to permanent residents at Bonny's Caravan Park on the Tullybrannigan Road in the Co Down resort.

Police officers remained at the scene yesterday as part of a multi-agency investigation into the tragedy, but the PSNI said the deaths were not being treated as suspicious.

Detective Inspector Debbie Eakin said: "A post-mortem is due to be held but at this stage of the investigation the deaths are not believed to be suspicious. However, I would appeal to anyone who saw either of the deceased in recent days to contact CID at Downpatrick PSNI station on the non-emergency number 101."

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland said: "HSENI is looking into the circumstances of a fatal incident at a caravan park in the Newcastle area."

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