Manchester

Salford house fire: Five questioned over child deaths

Brandon and Lacie Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Brandon and Lacie died in hospital

Five people are being questioned over the suspected murder of three children who died in a house fire in Salford.

Fourteen-year-old Demi Pearson died at the scene of the blaze which broke out in Jackson Street, Walkden, at about 05:00 GMT on Monday.

Eight-year-old Brandon and Lacie, aged seven, died in hospital, while three-year-old girl Lia is in a critical condition.

Their mother, Michelle Pearson, 35, is in a serious condition.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The blaze broke out at 05:00 GMT on Monday
Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Demi Pearson, 14, was a pupil at Harrop Fold School in Salford

Ms Pearson has been heavily sedated and has not yet been told her children are dead, a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spokeswoman said.

One other person was taken to hospital, while two 16-year-olds - Ms Pearson's son, Kyle, and a friend - who were in the house, freed themselves before fire crews arrived.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Michelle Pearson is in a serious condition in hospital

Police confirmed there had been previous incidents at the family's home.

The case has been referred by GMP to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

It is understood the voluntary referral was in response to police contact with the family less than 24 hours before the fire.

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Media captionPolice were filmed leading one of the suspects away after his arrest

At the scene Kate West, BBC Radio Manchester

Image caption Tributes are being laid for the three children who died in the fire

This quiet residential street flanked by a large park on one side is still cordoned off.

There is a metal police cordon on one side and officers standing on the other.

Tributes to the three children who have died are growing on both sides of the barrier.

Image caption A metal police cordon is in place

Rev Gill Page, associate rector from St John the Baptist Church, told me more than 200 people - many of them youngsters - attended a "very moving and emotional" service last night.

She said candles were lit and a book of condolence was opened in memory of the victims.

Detectives are questioning three men, aged 18, 20 and 23, and a 20-year-old woman on suspicion of murder.

A 24-year-old man is being held on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Demi Pearson was a pupil at Harrop Fold School in Salford, which featured in the Channel 4 documentary Educating Greater Manchester.

Head teacher Drew Povey said: "We are devastated at the tragic loss of life today in our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family involved."

Image caption Jackson Street was cordoned off between Algernon Road and Alexandra Road

Ch Supt Wayne Miller said police were appealing for witnesses or those with information about the events leading up to the fire.

"In what is such a heartbreaking set of circumstances, we have been doing our very best to support the family in every way that we can and carry out our inquiries quickly and sensitively," he said.

Damian O'Rourke, from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Firefighters arrived within minutes and were faced with a very serious and well-developed fire involving the ground and first floor.

"Knowing there were people trapped inside, firefighters wearing breathing apparatus immediately went in and quickly rescued five people from the house but sadly three of those people died."

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: "Our thoughts are with the friends and family of those killed and seriously injured in this horrific incident in our city."

He urged anyone with information to contact the police, adding: "We'll continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our communities."

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