Gardaí begin murder inquiry after fire death

Garda forensic officers at the scene of the fatal house fire in Passage West, Co Cork, yesterday. photograph: darragh kane

Garda forensic officers at the scene of the fatal house fire in Passage West, Co Cork, yesterday. photograph: darragh kane

Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 00:00

Gardaí have arrested a man on suspicion of murder following the death of a woman in a house fire early yesterday morning in Co Cork.

The man in his 30s was arrested late last night and taken to Togher Garda station for questioning.

The 36-year-old old mother of three was found by firefighters following a fire at her home in Passage West.

Senior gardaí met last night to consider the results of a post-mortem carried out by State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy on the body of the woman.

Gardaí are understood to be awaiting the results of toxicology tests, but it is thought that she may have been stabbed before the fire started.

The woman, named locally as Olivia Dunlea O’Brien, was found dead by firefighters when they were called to deal with a blaze at her semi-detached house at Pembroke Crescent in Passage West shortly after 1 am.

The alarm had been raised by neighbours, who thought that no one was at home in the house when fire broke out.

It was only later when firefighters entered the building that they discovered Ms Dunlea O’Brien’s body.

Firefighters using breathing apparatus discovered Ms Dunlea O’Brien’s body in the main bedroom of the house on the first floor, which received the majority of the damage in the blaze. The fire took firefighters several hours to bring under control.

Ms Dunlea O’Brien, who was separated, lived in the house with her three children, Aaron (12), Megan (10) and Darragh (nine).

However, it is understood that the children were staying with their father for the night when the fire broke out.

Ms Dunlea O’Brien had earlier been socialising with friends at the Rochestown Inn and had returned home by taxi some two hours before the fire was spotted and the alarm was raised by neighbours.

Gardaí are expected to begin door-to-door inquiries in the housing estate this morning as they to try to piece together Ms Dunlea O’Brien’s last movements.