Portadown fire: Girl (12) in hospital as police investigate mum’s suspected murder

It is understood the 12-year-old, who was in the property at the time of the blaze, was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital

Forensics at the scene© Photopress Belfast

The scene at Church Street, Portadown, in Co Armagh, where police have launched a murder investigation (PA).© PA

Evidence of fire damage at the back of the property in Portadown (Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

Brett Campbell and Ralph HewittBelfast Telegraph

A 12-year-old girl was taken to hospital following a house fire in Co Armagh, which is connected to the suspected murder of her 37-year-old mother.

The victim, who is believed to be a foreign national, was pronounced dead at the scene along Church Street in Portadown in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

It is understood the 12-year-old, who was in the property at the time of the blaze, was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital, but it is not clear what the child was being treated for.

The PSNI confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday morning that it was investigating the circumstances around the sudden death of a female.

But in a fast-moving situation, the PSNI later said detectives from its major investigations team had launched a murder probe.

Evidence of fire damage at the back of the property in Portadown (Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Wilson said police received a report of a house fire at 2.15am and officers attended the scene along with colleagues from both the fire and ambulance services.

“Sadly, a 37-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene,” she added.

“We have now launched a murder investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.

“A number of residents have been evacuated from their homes in the area due to the fire.

“Our investigation continues and I am appealing to anyone with information, or who witnessed anything untoward, to please get in touch.

“Likewise, if you have captured dash cam footage, please contact officers on 101 quoting reference number 92 of 21/03/23.”

Portadown Town Hall was set up as an emergency shelter to provide support to neighbours forced to leave their homes at around 4am. However, the operation ended at 7am.

It is understood that the neighbours were being rehomed until being allowed to return to their properties at Church Street.

The area remained cordoned off last night as PSNI officers and forensic teams continued to gather evidence from the scene.

A large blue screen was put in place at the front of the property, after the female had been found outside, but the only fire damage visible was at the rear.

Police had also cordoned off an alleyway leading to the back of the terraced housing, where smoke could still be seen after the fire, while forensic officers launched a drone to capture images from above.

The scene at Church Street, Portadown, in Co Armagh, where police have launched a murder investigation (PA).© PA

The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service were called back to the property shortly before 12.30pm, after another blaze had broken out, but it was quickly extinguished.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it received a 999 call at 2.29am on Tuesday “following reports of an incident in the Church Street area, Portadown”.

“NIAS despatched two ambulances and the Hazardous Area Response Team to the scene of the incident. Following assessment and initial treatment at the scene, one patient was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital by ambulance,” the NIAS added.

Local residents passing by the scene said they were shocked and confused as to what had happened.

Speaking at the scene, UUP councillor Julie Flaherty said the situation “escalated” throughout the morning and said the town awoke to a tragic scene.

“Now it has been confirmed a 37-year-old lady has died in difficult circumstances and a murder investigation has been launched,” she added.

“It’s down to us to respect this cordon here. We need to work with the police and give them time and space to conduct whatever investigations they have to do.”

Ms Flaherty, who visited the town hall, said staff from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and the Southern Trust supported those families who were forced to flee their homes and said the woman’s death was an “absolute tragedy”.

“In the town, the general feeling is just of utter shock that this has happened, just on the way into the main town centre,” she said.

“It’s quite a residential area, but we’re just coming down into the main thoroughfare.

“Regardless where it happened, it’s just an absolute tragedy that has unfolded for a family, and a family who is now left bereft, and they should be at the forefront of our thoughts.”

DUP councillor Kyle Moutray said it was “shocking” that a murder investigation was under way.

“Events have now transpired and it is shocking to think that this took place,” he said.

“First and foremost, I would plead with people to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

“Whatever information the public may have, make that known to the police, because ultimately a family has lost a loved one. And whilst I would like to see justice served, no amount of justice will repair the loss that this family has felt.”

Mr Moutray described the Church Street area as a “tight-knit community”.

“It’s just on the edge of the town centre, so it’s just shocking to see an incident like that at any time, but particularly at this location,” he continued.

“Heartfelt condolences are being sent and echoed right across the town at this time.”

Upper Bann’s DUP MP Carla Lockhart described the situation as “very sad”.

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased,” she said.

“The investigation into the incident is at a very early stage and I would urge everyone to allow for the investigation to take place without getting into speculation or putting details on Facebook.

“As a result of the fire and the death, Church Street will remain closed for the duration of the day.”

Ms Lockhart also thanked the emergency services personnel who responded to the incident.

Upper Bann MLA and Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie described the incident as “terrible” as he, too, offered condolences to the family of the deceased.

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said his thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of the woman who died and praised the response of emergency services and all those involved in providing support to local residents.

“I would urge everyone to give the police the space they need to carry out their investigation and obtain the clarity that is needed following this shocking incident,” he added.

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