The young family were trapped by intense heat in upstairs bedrooms as their home burst into flames. The mother, it is believed, stayed behind to try to save her children. Local people and relations could hear screaming and shouting, but there was nothing they could do.
Firefighters wearing breathing equipment eventually managed to break in and get Teresa Harcourt, 28, and her children, Kirsty, nine, Malcolm, six, Kelly, three and Kimberley, two, out.
The fire, in Braunstone, Leicester, started at about 4am. The semi-detached council house was gutted, with plaster peeling off the walls to leave bare bricks.
Maureen Parker, who lives near by, said: "We could not get anywhere near the house. They would not let us through. My ... daughter's boyfriend tried to get in with another neighbour. But they were beaten back by the smoke and fire.
"Nobody could get in there, there was nothing they could have done. Teresa loved those children. To be honest, this just has not sunk in yet. I am still expecting her to call me and come running over."
Christine Marshall, whose brother is the father of Kimberley, said Ms Harcourt must have stayed in the house to try to save her children. "She was brave. I think she could have got out but she stayed behind to save her kids. She doted on them.
"A whole family has been wiped out; I cannot describe it".
Detective Inspector Ian Stripp, of Leicestershire police, said a man had been arrested and was being ques- tioned at Hinckley police station. He said officers were piecing together the background to the fire and people in the community were extremely upset.Reuse content