Three killed in blaze horror

THREE people died after a fire ripped through two flats in the early hours of Saturday.

THREE people died after a fire ripped through two flats in the early hours of Saturday.

The blaze started soon after midnight on Friday in the bedroom of a first-floor flat in the four-storey house in Penn Road, Holloway.

Four fire engines and around 20 firefighters eventually put it out shortly after 2am.

Unemployed John Underwood, 40, of Camden, died of smoke inhalation during the fire.

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Retired Richard Blackburn, 63, and unemployed Patricia Emberson, 53, who lived in separate flats in the house, died later in hospital.

Mr Blackburn, who owned the house, had converted it into flats and rented the basement to West End actor, David Killick, who escaped the fire when he was woken by the windows being blown out.

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Detective Inspector Mark Gower, from Islington police, said: "Mr Underwood and Mr Blackburn were sleeping in Mr Blackburn's flat when the fire broke out.

"He was a generous chap and had a number of friends who used to visit him on a regular basis. They used to drink and smoke and socialise."

DI Gower believes the fire may have been started by a cigarette while everyone was asleep. He said: "We are satisfied that it's not suspicious. But it's still unexplained. It's a very, very tragic occurrence where decent people have lost their lives."

Keith Hodgson, chairman of the Penn Road Residents' Association, said: "I heard it happen at around 12.30am when an explosion blew the front windows out. Richard was a nice bloke and used to come to the annual party in the park that we hold and help out on a stall. It's an awful thing that happened. We have a very close community in the street. This will affect everyone and I'm sure we will pull together."

Penn Road resident Marija Clarke said "My husband and I could smell the smoke but all we could really see were fire engines spraying gushes of water onto the front of the building. The whole thing is pretty ghastly. I've known Richard for years and he's a really nice bloke. He will be missed."

Mr Killick, who appeared in the stage show Summer and Smoke and TV's Midsomer Murders as well the 2006 film The History Boys, was not available for comment.

An inquest was due to be opened and adjourned at St Pancras Coroner's Court this week.

Police are trying to trace the families of Ms Emberson and Mr Underwood. If you have any information, contact the incident room on 0207 421 0323.

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