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Three dead after hospice attack

Published 12/07/2015

Police said a woman aged 62 and an 81-year-old man who were being treated for smoke inhalation have died
Police said a woman aged 62 and an 81-year-old man who were being treated for smoke inhalation have died

Two more people have died following an arson attack on a hospice, bringing the death toll to three.

A 67-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of two of the residents of St Michael's Hospice in St Leonards, East Sussex.

The 62-year-old woman and an 81-year-old man died after being taken to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings suffering from smoke inhalation.

A 78-year-old woman also died following the fire but Sussex Police are still investigating whether her death was connected with the blaze.

Emergency services were called to the fire in the early hours of yesterday. It was declared a major incident and 23 residents and nine staff were evacuated.

A Sussex Police spokesman said that the arrested man was known to the hospice and was initially arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life. He has now been further arrested on two counts of murder.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Preston said: "This is an extremely difficult time for the residents and staff of St Michael's Hospice and for the families of the residents who have sadly passed away.

"We are now treating this as murder and a 67-year-old man arrested on suspicion of arson has now been further arrested on suspicion of two counts of murder."

A spokeswoman for St Michael's Hospice said: "The fire, ambulance and police services all declared the fire a major incident and 23 palliative care patients with life-limiting illnesses and nine staff were all successfully evacuated.

"The patients were moved to the Conquest Hospital and neighbouring care homes, accompanied by members of nursing staff.

"Sadly, after the evacuation one of our patients, a 78-year-old woman, passed away. A coroner's report is yet to determine if this was a direct result of the fire.

"We are also very sad to announce that two of our patients with life-limiting illnesses, a woman aged 62 and an 81-year-old man who were being treated for smoke inhalation at the Conquest Hospital, St Leonards on Sea, have subsequently passed away.

"Our heartfelt thoughts are with all of their family and friends at this very difficult time.

"We are currently waiting for the police to hand the building back to us and a structural engineer will then visit to assess the building so future plans can be developed."

Celia Pyke-Lees, chief executive of St Michael's Hospice, said: "We are extremely grateful to the police, fire services, local care homes and the hospital for their support.

"We would also like to extend our thanks to all staff, volunteers and supporters for all their support. Thank you for all your kind donations received so far which are helping us make our patients more comfortable."

An East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "At the height of the incident crews used 15 breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets and four main jets to tackle the blaze.

"The thoughts of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are with the residents and staff of St Michael's Hospice."

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