Girl, 5, orphaned as fire kills mum, dad and brother

A COUPLE and their three-year old-son died in a fire which left their five-year-old daughter an orphan as she fought for her own life last night.

Fire investigators and police have yet to establish how the blaze started, although it is believed to have broken out on the ground floor of the family's home in South Street, Highfields, Doncaster, while they were asleep upstairs early yesterday.

Heavily-pregnant Michelle Colley, who was in her mid-20s, was seen screaming at a rear bedroom window and some neighbours tried to rescue the family using a ladder and garden hose.

Other neighbours who wanted to help said they were prevented from doing so by police who feared for their safety because of the intensity of the flames.

Firefighters rescued all four occupants but medics were unable to save Mark Colley, in his late 20s, a supervisor at the Ranch DIY store in York Road, Doncaster, his wife or son Lewis, three.

Their daughter Sophie, five, survived but was badly injured and taken to a Sheffield hospital for specialist treatment. Last night she remained critically ill there.

Residents believe the family had spent Saturday evening at home and a next-door neighbour called for help after discovering the fire.

When firefighters got into the house they found three of the victims in bedrooms, with one child on the landing.

Neighbour Davey Davis, 38, a plant operator, said some people were upset because police prevented them from trying to rescue the family, on safety grounds.

"Someone had got a ladder and someone else had a hose. We were trying to get in. I've never seen anything like it," he said.

"She was screaming 'get my kids out'. She was eight and a half months pregnant, due to give birth soon.

"I didn't see Mark, just her. It was awful.

"They had lived here for five or six years, I knew them personally. They were a great couple, a family couple and did everything for their kids," he said.

Police arrived before the fire brigade and, according to Mr Davis and other neighbours, tried to keep residents away from the blaze, saying it was too dangerous.

That caused frustration among some people: "Some people were going loopy because they wanted to get in. People were shouting at the police and everything," he said.

It is believed the fire broke out somewhere on the ground floor of the property, a three bedroomed terraced house.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Phil Shillito said an investigation would try to establish the cause, but there initially appeared to be no suspicious circumstances.

It was not clear whether the house was fitted with a smoke alarm. Among the damage, the base plate for an alarm was located but the damage was so severe it was not possible to say whether it had an alarm attached and if so whether that was working.

Mr Shillito stressed the importance of having working smoke alarms in all properties, to give occupants a better chance of escaping.

Det Supt Peter McGuinness said: "I would like to commend our officers who were first on the scene.

"The Fire Brigade were only minutes away, but our officers were faced with a raging fire. They handled the incident as professionally as we would expect them to and they then worked long into the night.

"South Yorkshire Police feel for the family and will continue to support them through this terrible time."

n The death of a person whose body was found following a house fire is being treated as suspicious, police said.

Last night officers were still trying to establish whether the body found in Quinton, Birmingham, was that of a man or a woman, but confirmed that the death was being treated as suspicious.

A police spokeswoman said firefighters were called to the address in Copperbeech Close shortly after 2.30pm on Saturday.