26/11/2007

Burial Of Tragic Omagh Fire Victims Delayed

One of the most tragic stories to have yet emerged in Northern Ireland is getting a further twist as the families of the seven victims of the recent house fire in Omagh are now involved in a bitter dispute over where the bodies should be buried.

Arthur McElhill, from Ederney, Co Fermanagh, Lorraine McGovern, from Bawnboy, Co Cavan, and the five children, Caroline (13), Shaun (7), Belina (4), Clodagh (19 months) and James (nine months), died in the malicious blaze which destroyed their home in Lammy Crescent, Omagh, earlier this month.

The Belfast mortuary in Forster Green hospital - where post-mortem examinations were carried out - have been awaiting confirmation of funeral arrangements before releasing the seven bodies to the families.

Initial plans were for the seven to be laid to rest together, probably in Ederney, where Arthur McElhill's parents and some of his siblings still live.

But this changed following revelations that McElhill, a convicted sex abuser, is the chief suspect in the police investigation into the fire.

Since then, Lorraine McGovern's parents, Kevin and Theresa, have been trying to ensure that Lorraine and her five children are buried in her family home at Corlough, near Bawnboy, Co Cavan.

Negotiations between the two families - assisted by mediators - have to date failed to reach an agreement.

Police investigating the fire which broke out just before 5am on Tuesday, November 13, upgraded it to a murder investigation after discovering a significant quantity of petrol at the scene.

Since then detailed forensic examination has been carried out at the house amid mounting speculation that Arthur McElhill was the chief and only suspect.

(BMcC)

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