Stafford house fire Man and woman arrested suspicion of manslaughter after blaze

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “Tilly was a happy little girl who loved coming to nursery. She was a friendly and caring child who loved to read stories, dress up and paint. Tilly was always proud of her achievements.”Olly was a happy, loving boy who loved cuddles. He was always happy to come to nursery and loved to be in the role play area with the dolls.”We have put in place support in school for staff and pupils, to help anyone who feels affected. Support from Staffordshire County Council’s Educational Psychologists will also be made available if required.”Our sympathies are with the children’s family and friends at this unimaginably difficult time.”Headteacher Kim Ellis, from Marshlands Special School where Keegan was a pupil, said: “Keegan was lively, full of fun and mischief with a really endearing smile.”He loved school and everyone who worked with him loved him. We were all proud of him and the progress that he had made. It is very hard to accept what has happened.”Our school community are understandably devastated and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”We are also putting support in place to help our staff and fellow pupils at this difficult time.” Two people have been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence after a house fire led to the deaths of four children.Riley Holt, eight, Keegan Unitt, six, Olly Unitt, three, and Tilly Rose Unitt, four, died after the blaze in Sycamore Lane, Highfields, Stafford, on Tuesday.Their parents and one sibling survived the blaze having jumped from a top-floor window. Staffordshire Police said a 24-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man were arrested at around 1.30pm on Friday.They remain in custody, the force added.In a statement, police said: “This incident has had a huge impact on the community and we understand there will be confusion and a demand for information.”However, we would urge people not to speculate as to what may have happened and appeal for patience as the investigation continues.”We will provide further updates as soon as we are able to.”‘Popping’ and ‘explosions’ heard coming from burning houseNeighbours living on the quaint residential street, where property prices average around £130,000, spoke of their “deep sadness” after the tragedy.Jason Stones, 48, said: “You could hear small pops and explosions coming from the house at about 2.30am.”My dogs woke me up. I looked out the window and smoke was pouring from the back of the house down the road. Emergency services at the scene of a house fire in Sycamore LaneCredit:Aaron Chown/PA Emergency services at the scene of a house fire in Sycamore Lane Another resident, who did not want to be named, added: “I was awoken by the sound of sirens and saw blue flashing lights illuminating the street.”I rushed out and you could see the flames straight away. I was offering people cups of tea or coffee, everyone was in the street – I just wanted to do what I could to help. “But you just feel helpless and when you hear that four children have lost their lives, it fills you with great sadness and we are all absolutely devastated.”The family haven’t been there that long, it must be about a year or so and they seemed very nice and friendly. It desperately tragic.” Tributes to ‘happy and endearing’ childrenStaffordshire Police’s Chief Inspector Gemma Ward said: “I want to reassure you we are working closely with colleagues from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service as investigative work into the cause of the fire begins.”We would like to offer our condolences and thank the community for their support, as I’m aware groups and individuals have already been offering.”Headteacher Nicola Glover, from Castlechurch Primary School, where three of the children attended, said: “Our entire school community is absolutely devastated by this news.”Riley was a very confident, excitable member of school who came everyday full of enthusiasm.”He was a caring friend who hated to see anyone hurt or upset and would do his best to help or cheer them up.”Riley had a great sense of humour and an infectious giggle. He was a very bright and articulate boy who showed interest in all areas and was always keen to ask lots of questions. “My wife dialled 999 while I rushed outside and you could feel the heat coming up the road.”I couldn’t see anything else or hear anything because the street was suddenly full of fire engines and sirens going off.”They are a nice family, but I only know them to say hello to. It is a couple in their 20s or 30s there, I used to see the mum walking the kids to school.”One of them was in a pushchair but I think the others were of school age. It’s a terrible tragedy for the family.”I have kids of my own but you can’t imagine the pain they must be going through. I just feel so gutted for the family and those poor children.”The house was absolutely gutted, they didn’t stand a chance.”Neighbours also reported that they had heard a man jumped out of a window with a baby in his arms, according to BBC Radio Stoke. read more