Murder probe launched after discovery of woman’s body following house fire

The scene on Church Street in Portadown where police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a woman Photo: Jonathan Porter//PressEye

Brett Campbell

Police have launched a murder investigation following the discovery of a 37-year-old woman’s body following a house fire in Portadown.

Detectives are investigating the circumstances of the sudden death which occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the Church Street area of the town.

It’s understood the deceased is a foreign national.

A number of PSNI officers remain at the scene which has been cordoned off.

A police car is parked in an alleyway that leads to the rear of the property where fire damage is visible.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Rachel Wilson said the discovery was made when emergency crews responded to a report of a house fire in the at around 2.15am.

"Officers attended alongside colleagues from the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service.

"Sadly, a 37-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

"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.

"Church Road is currently closed to motorists and pedestrians and we would ask that the public avoid the area at this time.”

Forensic officers are at the scene and large blue screens have been put in place.

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

Upper Bann 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 major fire and the death, Church Street in Portadown will remain closed for the duration of the day."

The DUP representative thanked the emergency service personnel who responded to the incident.

Upper Bann MLA and Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie described the situation as “terrible” as he too offered condolences to the family of the dead woman.

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 just 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.

Meanwhile local councillor Kyle Moutray has also expressed shock and sadness following the incident.

“My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased,” he said.

“I want to pay tribute to the fast actions of the emergency services who responded to the fire and worked to save lives, their actions and swift response are to be commended.

"I also want to thank the staff from the Health Trust and from the council who very quickly responded in setting up an emergency centre to support those evacuated from their homes.

“Additionally, I would ask that as the police and fire service deal with the aftermath of this tragedy they are given space and time to complete their investigations.”

The elected representative said the area is cordoned off and will remain inaccessible for the remainder of the day as he urged members of the public to stay away.

Meanwhile, councillor Julie Flaherty described the situation as “terrible” and “dreadfully sad” and urged the public to give police the space they need to carry out their investigation.

Police have appealed for anyone with information, or who witnessed anything untoward, to contact officers on 101 quoting reference number 92 of 21/03/23.