Page last updated at 09:03 GMT, Thursday, 21 February 2008

Fatal hotel fire team's new leads

Penhallow Hotel fire
More than 80 people managed to get out of the building safely

Former employees have given detectives new leads in their investigation into a fatal hotel fire in Cornwall.

Some "very interesting" calls were received after a reconstruction of the Penhallow Hotel fire in Newquay on the Crimewatch programme, police said.

Joan Harper, 80, Peter Hughes, 43, and his mother Monica, 86, of Staffs, died in the blaze, last August.

Officers are working on the theory the fire was an attempt to "create a dramatic event for attention".

Up to 90 people were forced to escape from the fire, which police said was the worst in the county for 30 years.

Two men, aged 21 and 44, were arrested on suspicion of murder last month and released on bail until 9 April.

We want someone to be brave enough now to step up and say exactly what happened
Det Ch Insp Darren Lockley

Det Ch Insp Darren Lockley said the fire began between 2315 and 0015 GMT on August 18, 2007, in the hotel bar and can only have been started deliberately.

But he said the person who started it may not have intended to hurt anyone.

Speaking on the BBC's Crimewatch programme, he said the person responsible "possibly did not foresee the speed of the fire and how quickly it took hold."

"It may well be they never realised, and never intended to hurt anyone," said Det Ch Insp Lockley.

"We want someone to be brave enough now to step up and say exactly what happened."

'Significant' calls

Holidaymaker Mr Hughes, of Cheslyn Hay, Staffordshire, died trying to rescue his mother, Monica, from the fire.

Ms Harper, from Stoke on Trent, was also on holiday in the resort, when she was fatally injured in the blaze.

Last month, detectives announced the fatalities were being treated as murder after painstaking inquiries by fire service investigators and independent experts established the fire was started deliberately.

After the television appeal Det Ch Insp Lockley said: "Some of the calls received as a result of the programme have given us some interesting lines of enquiry.

"This includes people who called in who have had connections with the hotel in the past.

"The investigative team will now be actively following up these lines of enquiry."

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