Murder hunt after fire at pub kills boy and injures brothers

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The Independent Online

A family reunion was transformed into tragedy yesterday when a fire tore through a building killing a ten-year-old boy and critically injuring his two brothers.

A family reunion was transformed into tragedy yesterday when a fire tore through a building killing a ten-year-old boy and critically injuring his two brothers.

Detectives launched a murder hunt after a "suspicious" blaze broke out at the Prince of Wales pub in Stoke Newington, north London, in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The owners of the pub were celebrating a family reunion while five children, aged between three and 11, including the owners' three sons, were asleep upstairs. All five were taken to hospital, but the landlord's ten-year-old son died shortly after arriving. His two brothers, aged three and five, and their cousin, an 11-year-old girl, were critically ill last night at the burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford.

A man who attempted to rescue the children, by throwing them out of the first floor window, was also in a critical condition at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, while a second 11-year-old girl, the daughter of friends of the pub owners, was discharged after treatment for smoke inhalation.

"We are treating this as murder," said Detective Chief Superintendent Jon Shatford.

"I think we've got to look at all the circumstances, but while we are keeping an open mind, elements disturb me. This was a ferocious fire which swept through the pub and resulted in a tragic loss of life."

Yesterday, teams of forensics conducted a fingertip search of the building and the surrounding area for clues as to how the fire had started.

Blackened curtains and broken tiles marked the front of the property, after the fire spread swiftly from the ground floor staircase throughout the four-storey house.

One neighbour described how she was alerted to the blaze after hearing a loud bang. "At that point it was just in the downstairs bar," she said. "I thought everyone was out but I could hear one bloke saying 'Oh my God'.

"The fire very quickly spread upstairs within two or so minutes." She added: "One little girl climbed out of the back window. I was really shocked. I stopped watching when I saw a little boy brought out and he didn't look too good."