Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 13:58 UK

Fire death father 'tried suicide'

The family of seven died in the fire
The family of seven died in the fire

The father of a family of seven killed in a house fire in Omagh had previously attempted suicide in 1988, the inquest into the deaths has heard.

Lorraine McGovern, Arthur McElhill and their five children died in the fire at Lammy Crescent, Omagh, two years ago.

Mr McElhill, who had convictions for sexually assaulting teenage girls, was suspected of starting the fire.

His GP said she prescribed antidepressants for Mr McElhill, but he did not always take them.

Dr Michelle Mellotte said that before the fire he had complained of feeling down and overweight, and told her he was "tired of his wife's shouting in the house".

Dr Mellotte told the court she had asked Mr McElhill questions designed to find out if he was suicidal or homicidal, but his answers raised "no concerns".

There was also evidence on behalf of the McElhill family which suggested that an intruder could have broken into the house and started the fire.

On the opening day of the inquest forensic investigators said that the fire had been started when someone who was inside the house set light to a mixture of petrol and white spirits which had been poured in the hall.

Evidence from fire fighters was also read to the court on Wednesday.

A court clerk reading a statement from a Fire Service commander struggled with emotion as she delivered his description of searching the house as the fire came under control.

First he found the bodies of two adults, then the children and finally a baby in a cot.

The children were Caroline, 13; Sean, 7; Bellina, 4; Clodagh, 19 months and James, nine months.

On Tuesday, the inquest heard a distressing phone call made by 13-year-old Caroline from her burning home.

She could be heard pleading: "Help me! Help me!"

The inquest has now been adjourned until 7 December.

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