Hunt on for arsonist as little Mari (5) killed in fire at home
An accelerant thrown through the letterbox of the front door may have started the blaze that claimed the life of a young schoolgirl yesterday.
Last night gardai investigating the death of five-year-old Mari Connolly were awaiting the results of forensic tests in the house at Termon Road in Boyle, Co Roscommon.
But they suspect that an arson attack led to the outbreak that gutted the building.
Locals described how the home went up "like an inferno" early yesterday morning.
Mari's father, Richard Connolly suffered a broken back when he jumped out of the top floor window with her sisters, Naomi (6) and Lauren (8) at around 2.30am. He saved their lives.
Mari's mother, Mr Connolly's former partner Teresa Kane, had given birth to twin girls on Saturday.
Mr Connolly was minding the girls while she was in hospital.
Gardai said last night that they were officially treating the fire as "suspicious" until they received the forensic report. But they were expecting to upgrade their investigation into a criminal inquiry.
Around 20 firefighters struggled to access rooms upstairs because part of the floor, as well as the ceiling, collapsed.
Naomi and Lauren were in the back bedroom upstairs when the fire broke out. It is not clear where Mari was.
Three fire brigade units were dispatched to the scene. They continued to fight the fire into yesterday evening.
Mari's body was taken from the house yesterday evening for a postmortem examination by Deputy State Pathologist Khalid Jabbar.
Forensic experts from the technical bureau at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park were called in to help them with inquiries.
Ms Kane visited the shell of her family's home yesterday to place a tribute to her daughter outside.
She told the Irish Independent: "I don't know what to say."
Locals expressed disbelief that the fire might have been started deliberately. "We're all devastated, absolutely can't believe it happened, it's dreadful," local woman Eileen Higgins said.
"They were very happy children, the best father that you could find, best mother, best people, lovely, lovely people," she added.
Mr Connolly was first taken to Sligo General hospital and then transferred to the Mater hospital in Dublin.
His injuries are not thought to be life threatening, but family members said they had been informed he could be in rehab for three months.
Naomi and Lauren were treated for smoke inhalation. Their injuries were not thought to be serious.
Garda Supt Thomas Mullarkey, from Boyle station, last night appealed to anybody, who might have information on how the fire started to contact them.
"We are currently treating this death as suspicious and a full investigation has commenced," he said.
He urged people who believed they could help their inquiries to call Boyle garda station, 071 9662344, or the confidential line, 1800 666111.