Tributes for Cork couple who died in London house fire

Joe and Ann Whelan were staying with ill relative when fire broke out at his home

Tributes have been paid to a Co Cork couple who died alongside a relative following a house fire in London.

Joe and Ann Whelan, who were in their late 60s and from Cobh, had gone to the city at the weekend to visit Mr Whelan's brother Jim (76), who had been ill in recent months.

The three were fatally injured when a fire broke out at Jim Whelan's house on Laburnum Avenue in Hornchurch, near Romford, Essex, at about 4am on Monday.

Firefighters using breathing apparatus removed the three from the mid-terrace property.

Ms Whelan was pronounced dead at the scene.

The two men were taken by ambulance to Queen’s Hospital in Romford but the brothers – who were originally from Dublin – died on Tuesday.

Police have ruled out foul play.

Joe and Ann Whelan are survived by their three adult sons, Hugh, Joe jnr and Mark.

Bring home his parents

Hugh Whelan posted a message on his Facebook page before leaving for the United Kingdom to identify and bring home his parents. "Thank you for the kind words, they have been and are a great source of comfort to us," he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan offered his condolences to the Whelan family.

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the three people who died. My department is providing assistance to the family in this tragic case.”

Cobh parish priest Fr Liam Kelleher said people were still trying to come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy and he extended his sympathies to the Whelan family on their loss.

“People were shocked when the news started to come through – for three people to lose their lives in such circumstances is very sad and our thoughts and prayers are with the Whelan family.”

Terrible tragedy

Former Labour TD John Mulvihill, who served with Joe Whelan in the Irish Naval Service, said the deaths were a terrible tragedy for the family and the local community.

“I saw Joe last Friday, I think it was, so they only went over to London at the weekend to look after his brother who hadn’t been well – it’s terrible to think their goodwill mission ended in tragedy,” he said.

Meanwhile, neighbours of the Whelans on Tay Road outside Cobh expressed their sadness at the deaths.

“They were a very quiet, private couple – it would be sad at any time but to happen when they went over to care for Joe’s brother just seems to make it even more sad and tragic,” said one local man.