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Wife found in Derbyshire blast house was murdered, say police

Published 21/09/2015

Fire crews at the house in Riddings, near Alfreton, where two people died in a fierce house fire after a suspected gas blast
Fire crews at the house in Riddings, near Alfreton, where two people died in a fierce house fire after a suspected gas blast

A 45-year-old woman found dead with her husband after an explosion at their home was murdered, police said.

Officers believe Shelley Saxton-Cooper was wounded before the house was destroyed by an explosion and fire on Sunday morning.

Forensic teams are working to piece together the cause of the explosion and fire at the house in Valley View Road in Riddings, Derbyshire, in which her husband Simon Saxton-Cooper, also died.

Chief Superintendent Sunita Gamblin said: "We believe that Shelley, who was 45-years-old, was wounded before the explosion and fire and we are treating her death as murder.

"We're still unable to say how either she or her husband died as post mortem examinations haven't been completed.

"Police, crime scene investigators and fire investigation specialists are working through the scene of the fire to find out exactly how it started and what happened.

"We don't believe, at this time, that anyone else is involved."

Officers had previously said they did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.

On Monday morning people began laying flowers on the street with one tribute saying: "Hearts are broken. A tragedy your lives should end this way."

Jayne Titchmarsh, who lives two doors away, said: "I knew the couple a little bit, I used to see them walking dogs in the morning and we would chat about family and things like that. It's just such a shock really because I used to see them most days."

Speaking about the explosion and fire, she said: "I just heard like a loud thunder. I ran to the window and saw debris coming down across the window and there were flames on the front.

"I just couldn't believe it. The fire really took off. Everyone was shouting 'get out, get out' and I just ran with my son because we thought it was going to catch light.

"It was just really frightening. I thought it might spread. We ran down the street and started coming back and then police, fire engines and everyone arrived.

"You could see the smoke going into the sky, it was just horrific."

It is reported Mrs Saxton-Cooper's parents lived next door to the couple.

Her father is said to have made attempts at a rescue, along with an airport firefighter who lived nearby and an off-duty policeman.

East Midlands Airport fireman Paul Archer, who lives in a neighbouring street, told how he climbed the stairs of the blazing house to search for casualties but was beaten back by intense heat.

Mr Archer, 48, said: "It didn't sound like a massive explosion - it sounded like something big had been dropped."

The father-of-two put on old fire-fighting equipment stored in his garage, including a tunic, a flash-hood and fire-retardant gloves, after the blast at 7.30am.

"The flames started straight away," he said. "One of the neighbours had got a key and they opened the back door. I made my way in shouting 'Can you hear me?' and the downstairs was really clear.

"I got to the bottom of the stairs, shouting again, and made my way up to the top of the stairs.

"By this time the house was pretty well ablaze - the front bedroom door was on fire but I was shouting 'hello, can anyone hear me?'"

Mr Archer also saw flames in a rear bedroom and feared the roof might cave in, eventually leaving the house via the front door as he heard the sirens of the first fire appliances to arrive.

Post mortem examinations on the two bodies will be carried out to determine the cause of death and Derbyshire Police said specially trained officers are working with the families.

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