Police hunt arsonists after blaze kills mother

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The Independent Online

Police said today they are pursuing a number of lines of enquiry in their hunt for the killers of a devoted mother of nine who died in a house fire started by a firework pushed through her letterbox.

Mary Fox, 59, was trapped in her bedroom after reportedly pushing her 17-year-old son Raum to safety through an upstairs window.

The remnants of a firework were found behind the front door of Mrs Fox's house in Carpenter Court, Bodmin, in Cornwall.

Officers have investigated claims that Raum, who has learning difficulties, was being bullied at school and that the family had been targeted by youths who had been throwing fireworks in the street.

But Devon and Cornwall police said after a meeting last night between representatives from Bodmin College, St Austell College, social services, mental health and housing services, that there was no "obvious evidence" that Mrs Fox or Raum had been victims of bullying.

It is thought Raum had moved from Bodmin College to St Austell College because of bullying.

Police conducted house-to-house enquiries yesterday and have collected remains of fireworks found in the street for potential evidence.

Today officers are still patrolling the area and reassuring people the tragic incident was a rare attack.

Detective Chief inspector Paul Burgan said today: "We've received some useful information over the last couple of days but we're still keen to hear from anybody who thinks they may know something that could help with this investigation - you may think it's not relevant but that piece of information may prove to be invaluable, please call us.

"We are investigating some positive leads from the community in Bodmin and the investigation team are determined to bring whoever did this to justice to ensure that the family get some kind of closure after this awful and tragic incident."

Firefighters arrived within minutes of a 999 call at around 7.15pm on Thursday and found Mrs Fox dead in the same room from where her son escaped.

After leaping from the three-storey house Raum ran to alert neighbours that his mother was still trapped inside.

He was taken to Treliske Hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation and is now staying with his eight brothers and sisters.

Speaking at a press conference at Bodmin police station yesterday, Superintendent Martin Orpe warned the people responsible that police would find them.

"I am appealing to those people involved in this to do the decent thing and come forward to the police," he said.

"If not, I am confident from what I have seen that we will be knocking on their doors shortly.

"I would ask them to come forward, and anyone who knows fact in relation to this incident - not rumour, because there is a lot of rumour going around Bodmin - to come forward."

Police later issued a statement confirming the Fox family had made no complaints about harassment to the force.

Supt Orpe said: "To suggest that earlier press reports regarding the systematic intimidation or bullying of either of them was a cause of this incident is purely speculation and is unfounded at this time."

Last night, Mrs Fox's family paid tribute to their "loving and caring" mother who devoted her life to her children.

In addition to Raum, Mrs Fox had eight other children aged between 20 and their mid-thirties.

In a statement, the family said: "We, the sons and daughters of Mary, would like to thank everyone for their kind words at this difficult time.

"We would also like to say a huge thank you to the fire service who tried to rescue our mother from this horrific fire that makes no sense.

"Our mum devoted her life to us her nine children and went without herself to provide the best that she could for us.

"She was at times, shall we say, eccentric, she had a sense of humour and was loving and caring.

"She never did anything to hurt anyone and never would. She would give her last penny to help those in less fortunate circumstances than herself."

Neighbours said Mrs Fox may have been trying to save her cat when the fire took hold.

Witness are asked to call police on 08452 777444 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.