Northern Ireland news

Ballymena in shock as police launch murder probe and girl (12) dies in house fire

 Donald Fraser-Rennie (33) died in a Ballymena flat

A HOUSING estate in Ballymena, Co Antrim, has been left reeling from a double tragedy as police launched a murder probe and a girl died in a house fire.

Police began a murder investigation yesterday morning following the discovery of a man's body in a flat in the nearby Crebilly Road area.

The victim, named as 33-year-old Donald Fraser-Rennie, was believed to have suffered a "vicious, sustained and violent beating", police said.

Two men aged 29 and 33 were arrested on suspicion of murder and police have today been granted an additional 36 hours to question them.

And a 12-year-old girl died in a blaze which broke out yesterday evening in a house in Staffa Drive in the Ballykeel estate in Ballymena.

Police said a man who was in the house "was taken to hospital for treatment". 

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said it had been alerted to the blaze at 5.46pm.

"Three fire appliances, two from Ballymena Fire Station and one from Antrim Fire Station, responded.

"Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the house, extinguished the fire and recovered the body of a 12-year-old girl.

"The cause of the fire is under investigation.

"NIFRS tenders its sympathies to the family of this young girl on their tragic loss."

Independent councillor Rodney Quigley said he understood the fire had started in the girl's bedroom.

"This is another tragedy in the estate after a tragedy three or four months ago."

In June, the Ballykeel estate was hit by a separate violent death when father-of-two Jason Lee Martin (31) was fatally stabbed.

Mr Quigley said the young girl came from a "well-known family in the area".

"It's just a tragedy in an area which has had its fair share of tragedies over the last number of months," he said.

"I send my sympathies out to the family. I know the family well. It's so sad – it's a young girl losing her life."

He added: "People are numb. People are still numb from Jason Martin's death back in June, and this is just adding to their anguish and grief."

SDLP councillor Eugene Reid also expressed his sympathies.

"It's tragic. It's really sad, devastating news. It's just horrendous," the Ballymena councillor said.

"Obviously I send my condolences to all those involved and they're in my thoughts and prayers at this tragic time."

Local residents last night expressed their shock and sadness, with many posting messages of sympathy for the family online.


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