THREE young children who died in a blaze which destroyed their home were murdered, police said last night.
Detective Chief Inspector John Graham, leading the inquiry, said that no motive was known for the attack. Charlotte Alexander, four, her sister Amy, three, and one-year-old brother, Dean, died as flames and smoke filled the terraced house in Peterlee, Co Durham.
Their mother Lisa Alexander, 26, who is about 18 weeks pregnant, was rescued from an upstairs bedroom window by a neighbour. Her partner, Graham Alderton, 29, the children's father, was found standing in the snow wearing just underpants.
A neighbour said she saw him earlier breaking the glass of the downstairs bay window to escape.
Mr Alderton, who has a serious spine injury, and Ms Alexander, who has undergone surgery for a severed tendon in her right hand, are being treated in Hartlepool General Hospital.
Mr Graham said forensic science tests showed an 'accelerant', some kind of flammable liquid, was used to start the fire in the hall area.
As the news conference took place, officers were telling the parents of the new findings. Mr Graham added: 'Teams of detectives are talking to the parents, trying to gently coax from them any information they might have.'
Asked if he was aware of any motive, Mr Graham said he 'had no idea' and added he was unaware of anyone having a grudge against the family.