A year after double arson tragedy, a community is still grieving

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IT was a devastating arson attack which led to the deaths of a devoted mother and daughter, but one year on from the double tragedy and police are no closer to finding the perpetrator.

Betty and Deirdre McGirr died when an inferno swept through a block of flats at Dunlea Vale on April 14, last year.

Despite a high-profile PSNI investigation, no-one has been arrested in connection with the blaze.

The scars left by the tragedy are still evident in the local community where hearts were heavy on Sunday, the anniversary of the attack.

The fire is thought to have been started by thugs who set light to wheelie-bins at the rear of the flats.

Deirdre’s boyfriend, Jose Cunha, escaped after jumping to safety through a first floor window. Police later said it was a miracle he survived.

Neighbours have spoken of their unease that those responsible for the crime are still at large in the community.

“The idea that there is still an arsonist on the loose is making people very nervous”, said a local resident.

“The pain is made all the worse by the fact that the police seem no closer to catching the culprits.”

In the latest police comment on the investigation, a spokesperson said: “One year on, the police investigation into the deaths in Dungannon of Betty and Deirdre McGirr is continuing. Detectives are following a number of lines of enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fire at Dunlea Vale on 14 April.

“Police believe the fire was started deliberately but are still working to determine exactly what happened.

“Detectives have made a number of appeals for information over the past year and would like to thank the local community for their assistance and co-operation.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the wider McGirr family as the first anniversary of Betty and Deirdre’s tragic deaths approaches.

“Detectives will continue to conduct their enquiries with a view to submitting a file to the coroner in due course.”

A special anniversary Mass was said for Betty and Deirdre on Sunday at 12noon in St Malachy’s Church, Edendork.