Northern Ireland

McElhill fire deaths: Relatives sue for damages

The McElhill family
Caroline McElhill, 13 (centre), tried to alert emergency services to the fire but all seven family members died

A health authority and a police force are being sued over a case in which a convicted sex offender killed himself and his family in a house fire.

Relatives are claiming there was negligence in the supervision and monitoring of Arthur McElhill, who set fire to his house in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

The fire in 2007 claimed the lives of his partner, Lorraine McGovern, 29, and their five young children.

The relatives have lodged legal papers at the High Court in Belfast.

A coroner later ruled that McElhill burned the house because Ms McGovern threatened to leave him.

She died in the blaze along with children Caroline, 13, Sean, seven, four-year-old Bellina, one-year-old Clodagh and 10-month-old baby James.

McElhill, who was a heavy-drinker and suffering from depression, was also killed.

He had previously been convicted of sexually assaulting teenage girls and was on the sex offenders register.

It also emerged that he had been having sex with a 16-year-old girl in the weeks before the fire.

Proceedings have been issued against the Western Health and Social Care Trust and the chief constable of the PSNI.

The action, brought by Kevin McGovern, is in the early stages of going through review hearings to check progress in the case.

No-one was available for comment from the plaintiff's solicitors.

A copy of the writ sets out details of the claim against the two defendants.

It claims damages on behalf of the estate of Ms McGovern and her children, saying there was a breach of duty by the health authority and the police.

A further review of the case has been listed for October.

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