Essex

Westcliff flat fire: Pregnant woman, 30, dies

Westcliff tower block Image copyright Google
Image caption The fire happened on the ninth floor of a block of flats in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

A pregnant woman has died following a tower block fire in Essex that police believe was started deliberately.

The woman, 30, was one of seven people taken to hospital after the fire on the ninth floor of the Balmoral Road flats in Westcliff-on-Sea on Saturday.

The injured woman and her unborn baby died in hospital on Monday night and police have started a murder investigation.

Essex Police said the fire was being treated as suspicious.

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Ch Insp Simon Anslow said his officers were "still exploring whether or not this was a targeted attack".

Fourteen people, including an eight-week-old baby, were evacuated from the Grampian tower block after the fire started at 23:15 BST on Saturday.

Ch Insp Anslow said a number of them had been left homeless as a result of the fire, and the housing association which maintains the property was "working hard" to repair the damage.

Image caption The woman was one of seven people - including an eight-week-old baby - taken to hospital

He described the fire as a "tragic and terrible incident", saying his officers had been "shocked and appalled" by what happened.

The victim - who has not yet been named - was described by police as in the "late stages" of pregnancy.

She was described by a neighbour as "the loveliest woman".

Rutendo Chitiga, who lives in the flats and is part of the Balmoral Residents Association, said: "Every time I see her and her partner, she stops and talks to me.

"She was so close to her due date so we were praying the baby was alright."

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