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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 19:12 GMT
Family tell of inferno grief

Mr Colvin's family
Jamie Cayzer-Colvin (centre) speaks at Tangley House

The family of Tory MP Michael Colvin have spoken of their grief as the search continues for the bodies of the politician and his wife Nichola in their fire-ravaged country mansion.

Mr Colvin, 67, and his wife Nichola, 62, are believed to lie somewhere in the gutted remains of the west wing of Tangley House, near Andover in Hampshire.

Mamma and Dadda were devoted to each other. They were inseparable in life and our only consolation is knowing that they died together in the home that they loved

Jamie Cayzer-Colvin
Their children said on Friday that they accepted their parents were killed in the blaze, saying they gain comfort from the fact that the devoted couple died as they lived - together.

The MP's son, Jamie Cayzer-Colvin, spoke for the first time about his parents' death in the fire, reading from a statement in the shadow of the ruined mansion.

He said: "My sisters Amanda and Arabella, Elizabeth, my mother's sister, and Alistair, my father's brother and I have been overwhelmed by the amazing warmth and kindness that has been shown to us by so many people during these dreadful hours.

"My parents touched countless people's lives but none more so than all of those at Tangley who meant so much to them and who did so much to help on Thursday morning."

He added: "Mamma and Dadda were devoted to each other. They were inseparable in life and our only consolation is knowing that they died together in the home that they loved."

Grim search begins

Earlier, three people, including a structural engineer and a forensic scientist, entered the house below the Colvins' bedroom.

A wall was knocked down to make the structure safe for a much larger group of fire safety officers to begin sifting through the fire-ravaged west wing.

Remains of mansion Fire investigation will take days
The search for bodies, and answers to how the fire started, is expected to take several days.

Fire crews had been unable to enter the burned out shell of the imposing 10-bedroom building as the intensity of the blaze in the early hours of Thursday left it unstable and dangerous.

But after surveying the structure it was decided it was safe enough to attempt the entry.

Station Officer John Greenbank, of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "Our first priority is to account for the missing people and then to investigate the cause of the fire."

Alvaro Pereira, the couple's butler of more than 40 years who was one of the first to be alerted to the blaze, said he did not believe the house had been fitted with smoke alarms.

Village in mourning

Meanwhile the one-street village of Tangley was also trying to come to terms with the tragedy.

Firemen at the scene Blaze was fanned by high winds
The livelihoods of many villagers were linked to Mr Colvin's estate where he farmed 1,000 acres with a 160-strong dairy herd and fields of wheat.

Villagers said the MP was well-liked in the local community. One man said: "The whole village is absolutely devastated."

Conservative party leader William Hague also paid tribute to both Mr Colvin and his wife, praising the countryside-loving MP as a "true Tory" with a strong commitment to his constituency and Westminster politics.
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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Tories in shock over Colvin fire
24 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Michael Colvin MP: Tory squire
24 Feb 00 |  UK
MP feared dead in fire

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