Glasgow & West Scotland

Helensburgh fire deaths treated as murder

Thomas Sharkey senior pictured escaping from the burning flat
Image caption Thomas Sharkey, 55, pictured escaping from the burning flat

A murder inquiry has been launched following the deaths of a 21-year-old man and his eight-year-old sister in a fire at a flat in Argyll and Bute.

Thomas Sharkey's body was found in the building in Scott Court, Helensburgh, at about 0500 BST on Sunday.

His sister Bridget died after she was taken to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley alongside her mother Angela, 46, and father Thomas, 55.

Mr and Mrs Sharkey are seriously ill in hospital after suffering burns.

Image caption Tributes have been paid to eight-year-old Bridget and 21-year-old Thomas Sharkey

They were both taken to the Royal Alexandra but Mr Sharkey was later transferred to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Strathclyde Police said an investigation was currently under way to establish the cause of the fire.

A mobile police incident room has been set up in the town, in Argyll and Bute.

A police helicopter flew over the scene to take aerial pictures.

The police said extensive inquiries had been "ongoing all day at the scene", including a "full crime scene forensic investigation" by forensic scientists, the fire service and Strathclyde Police.

Post-mortem examinations will be carried out and a report has been forwarded to the procurator fiscal.

'Deliberate act'

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Anne McKerchar, said: "This is a tragic event made worse by the fact that it was a deliberate act.

"I would appeal to anyone with any information that may help police enquiries to come forward.

Det Ch Insp McKerchar appealed for anyone who was in the James Street, West Princes Street or West Clyde Street areas of Helensburgh at about 0500 BST on Sunday, and who may have seen anything suspicious, to contact police.

Parish priest Father Peter Lennon, of St Joseph's Church in Helensburgh, said the tragedy was "dreadful".

"The wee girl was an absolute gem, the boy I didn't know as well because he was in America on this scholarship," he said.

"She made her first Communion in May. She was like the other girls, when they were out playing she always had good fun.

"I didn't know the parents very well, but they came to church and were a good family. I have spoken to their relatives. They are just shocked."

Father Lennon said he had told his congregation on Sunday morning about the deaths.

He said: "There was a deadly silence when I announced it.

"Most of them knew there had been a fire and most of them knew who had been involved, but to hear of the deaths was devastating. There was just silence."

Thomas Sharkey won a golf scholarship to Georgia Southern University in the United States, after leaving Our Lady and Saint Patrick's High in Dumbarton in 2008.

In his biography on the Georgia Southern Eagles website, he described himself as "ambitious and competitive", adding that his grandfather and father were the biggest influence on his athletics career for teaching him golf.

He also said he would have liked to have witnessed Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967.

Helensburgh Central councillor Al Reay described the fatal fire as "a serious tragedy".

"Everybody is very shocked, particularly given the fact a young girl has been killed, and a young boy," he said.

"This sort of thing doesn't normally happen in Helensburgh."

Mr Reay added: "I understand that the father raised the alarm himself and was hanging out of the window shouting for help.

"The fire brigade turned up very quickly and evacuated everybody from the adjacent flats."

One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "They had lived there a few years and were a nice, normal family.

"It is terrible. It makes any problems the rest of us might have seem insignificant."

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