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Murder investigation launched following huge fire which killed man, 24
A murder investigation has been launched after one man died and four others had to be rescued in a huge fire which engulfed a block of flats.
Sussex Police last night confirmed forensic tests had revealed white spirit was used as an accelerant to start the massive blaze which led to former Worthing school pupil Terry Davies losing his life and his neighbours having to be rescued by fire crews and treated for smoke inhalation.
Fire crews, police and paramedics were called to South Terrace, Littlehampton, during the early hours of September 12 this year.
As the residents of the property – divided into different flats – slept one or more people are believed to have poured white spirit at the entrance to it and lit a flame.
Initially firefighters believed the blaze was caused accidentally by an electrical fault. But it has just emerged this was not the case.
A fire investigation has revealed white spirit was used to start the blaze – evidence of the accelerant was found just inside the flats.
Officers carried out door-to-door enquiries to talk to residents yesterday. There is no suggestion Mr Davies, who worked at Morrison’s supermarket in Littlehampton, was deliberately targeted.
Detective Inspector John Wallace yesterday said: “We now believe this fire to have been started deliberately after fire investigators found evidence of accelerant just inside the front door to the building.
“We are hoping someone can remember something from that night that will help give us a clue to what happened.
“Did you see anyone acting suspiciously shortly before midnight or during the time of the fire or do you know of any reason why that building would have been targeted?
“We have now spoken to all the people who lived in the flats at the time but are hoping members of the public will be able to help us with our enquiries.
“A young man lost his life that night because someone started that fire in the property, a fire which could have cost the lives of the other occupants who had to be rescued by firefighters.
“We need to find who was responsible. We are appealing to anyone who may hold any information, however small, which will help us with our enquiries and bring justice to Terry’s family.”
A Sussex Police spokeswoman confirmed the fire was being treated as “arson and murder”.
She added: “Terry lived in a flat at the rear of the property and post-mortem results showed he died from smoke inhalation “The fire was originally believed to have been started by an electrical fault, however on further investigation by West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, it was established white spirit had been used to start the fire. As this is now being treated as arson and therefore murder, the investigation was passed to Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team.”
A witness who saw the door after the fire added: “There were black scorch marks above the letterbox, just as if flames had been shooting through.
“It looked to me as if the fire had started just inside the front door.”
Mr Davies, who had attended Paletine School, was set to propose to grieving girlfriend Kerry Stark, before he died.
Yesterday she was not available for comment. But the 19-year-old previously said: “We never had an argument and he always said how much trust we had in each other. “Everything he did, he did with me in mind. He never wanted to upset me. “If you had met him he would have made you at ease straight away. There wasn’t a bad bone in his body. I just wish I had met him sooner.”
His heartbroken mother Mitzi Price, who is aware the case is now being treated as murder, added: “It was my 15th wedding anniversary on the day he died and we had a tap at the door at about 6.45am, but I ignored it thinking it was a family member bringing an anniversary card round.
“My husband Nick, Terry’s step-dad, went down and when I heard him say ‘come in’ I realised it was the police. This has left a huge hole in our lives.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact police on 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting Operation Annexe or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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