A hero neighbour has described the dramatic rescue of a woman from a ferocious New Year’s Day house blaze which is now at the centre of a murder investigation.
Three people were found dead inside the house in Peartree Road, Kirton, Lincolnshire, after the fire was extinguished, police said.
But two other women managed to escape, with one jumping from a window at the back of the house according to residents, and another rescued by neighbours.
John Holland, who lives opposite, and another man both decided to act after seeing flames shooting through the roof of the detached house, shortly before 3am.
Quick-thinking Mr Holland, 68, described how he and the other resident – who he does not know – spotted the woman trapped on the ground floor of the burning house, smashed their way in, and pulled her out.
It was initially believed one person had died in the fire, but Lincolnshire Police said on Wednesday that three people had now been found dead inside.
Launching a domestic-related murder inquiry, officers said they believed they knew the identities of the deceased and were not seeking anyone else in connection with the deadly blaze.
Giving more details, the force confirmed the victims had been a woman aged 27, a male aged 24, and a 32-year-old man – all British.
Describing the dramatic rescue bid, Mr Holland said he was woken by his Jack Russell, Benny, barking, some time after 2am.
He said: “When I looked through the window, I could see flames reflecting in the windows.
“So I quickly got dressed, went outside, and then I saw the fire in the big upstairs front bedroom window, on the left.
“The flames were coming up through the roof and it was well ablaze.
“There was no smoke in the downstairs, and we could see a lady in the downstairs window.
“So me and this other chap, we rushed over to the front door and we were telling the woman ‘open the door’.
“She said ‘I can’t find the key’, so we looked around, I picked up a brick and we smashed the plate glass in the porch.
“We knocked all the sharp edges off, and dragged her through and out.”
He added the woman, who was still in her dressing gown, was extremely upset and distressed, telling neighbours, police and firefighters there were still people inside.
Mr Holland said: “I asked her if there were kids in there, and she said there weren’t.
“I think if there had been, we’d have all gone straight in, because the fire wasn’t downstairs.
“She said ‘there’s somebody upstairs’ but then just as she did, the whole roof above the upstairs bedroom caved in.
“It spread and really got going then, all across the upstairs. It was really quick.”
Mr Holland told police later that because events unfolded so quickly, he had not yet found out who the other rescuer had been.
He added: “I would like to know the other chap and shake hands with him.”
Mr Holland said another woman got out by jumping from a window at the back as firefighters battled the blaze.
Other neighbours, including Kirton parish council chairman, David Danby, described the “ferocity” of the fire and its rapid spread.
On Wednesday afternoon, scenes of crime officers and fire investigators could be seen sifting through the wreckage, in what is usually a quiet residential close.
The only part of the roof remaining were two brick gable ends, while every window on the upper floor had been shattered and part of the first floor wall had collapsed completely.
A blue tarpaulin sheet could also be seen covering the ground floor bay window, and a charred roof timber had fallen down onto the tiled porch roof, while the brick driveway was strewn with masonry and glass.
Mr Danby said: “It was the ferocity of it.
“We just could not believe how quickly it had got from one side of the upstairs to the other.
“Everyone’s thoughts and sympathies are with those affected.”
A Lincolnshire Police spokesman said: “It will take some time to formally identify them but at this time we believe we know who they are and their families have been notified and family liaison officers are in contact with them.
“We can confirm that we are treating this as a domestic-related murder investigation, but we are not looking for anyone else in connection with this.”
The investigation is being led by officers from the regional East Midlands Specialist Operations Unit, alongside local police.
Superintendent Di Coulson, of Lincolnshire Police, added: “This is a tragic crime and our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved.
“We are in contact with the families and will ensure that this is a thorough investigation as we try and understand what happened.”
The police have appealed for anyone with information about the occupants of the address, to get in touch.
Officers also want to hear from drivers who may have been in or near Peartree Road, from 3pm Near Year’s Eve up 3am on New Year’s Day morning, and who may have dash-cam footage, or saw anything, to make contact on 101.