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Probe into agencies' handling of fire family

By David Young

An independent review team is to investigate whether anything could have been done to prevent the fire tragedy which killed seven members of the same family in Northern Ireland, the government announced yesterday.

Arthur McElhill (36), his partner Lorraine McGovern (29), and the couple's five young children died in the suspicious blaze at their Lammy Crescent home in Omagh last November.

Mr McElhill, who had previous convictions for sexual offences, is understood to be the only suspect in the police investigation.

The review is to examine the involvement social services and other agencies had with the family prior to the fire. It will also establish what knowledge these agencies had about Mr McElhill's previous convictions.

The panel, which is headed by local barrister Henry Toner QC, will investigate whether any concerns or risks had be flagged up regarding the family's circumstances and what steps were taken to manage these.

Representatives from the PSNI, social services and other medical and nursing experts will be part of the review team.

It will report back to Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.

The Minister said: "I do not intend this review to cause any unnecessary further stress or grief to the families of those who died. However, if there are any lessons that need to be learned, I must ensure this happens."

Omagh SDLP councillor Seamus Shields said the community needed answers but added he would prefer to see the review delayed until the police investigation was completed.

"I would not like to see a situation where the review might be pre-empting the findings of other inquiries into the fire," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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