Man arrested on suspicion of murder after woman’s body found following house fire

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

Brett Campbell

A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a woman in Portadown.

The suspect is also being questioned on suspicion of attempted murder and arson with intent to endanger life.

He remains in custody at Musgrave Serious Crime Suite.

The arrest comes after the body of a 37-year-old woman was found following a fire in a house in Church Street at about 2.15am on Tuesday.

It is understood a 12-year-old girl, 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.

Detectives later launched a murder investigation.

“Sadly, a 37-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene,” DCI Rachel Wilson said.

“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 local residents were being rehomed before being allowed to return to their properties.

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 placed in front of the house where the victim was discovered.

Police investigating woman’s death in Portadown fire as property is cordoned off (Credit: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press)

It’s understood the woman’s body was found outside, however only fire damage at the back of the house was visible – smoke could still be seen after the fire, while forensic officers launched a drone to capture images from above.

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.

An alleyway leading to the back of the terraced property remained cordoned off by police.

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

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,” A spokesperson said.

Meanwhile UUP councillor Julie Flaherty, who praised staff from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and the Southern Trust for supporting those families forced to flee their homes, described the woman’s death as 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.”