Man arrested in fire death probe

A man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a mother of three who was found at her burnt-out home yesterday morning. (UPDATED WITH VIDEO) 

The suspect, who is in his late 30s, was taken to Togher Garda Station and questioned about the fire which is believed to have killed Olivia Dunlea.

Ms Dunlea, 36, died at her home on Pembroke Crescent, Passage West, Co Cork, in the early hours of Sunday.

Neighbours yesterday described how they heard “a crackling and popping” just after 1am and, when they went outside to look, the house was on fire.

However, they did not realise Ms Dunlea was at home at the time.

It is understood she had been socialising earlier in the evening at the nearby Rochestown Inn.

Her children were not at home at the time, as they were staying with their father for the night.

Ms Dunlea had been separated from her husband for some time.

One neighbour, who did not wish to be identified, described how he heard his daughter shouting, and when he ran outside to see what was going on, he saw flames in the upstairs front bedroom of Ms Dunlea’s house.

He knew there were animals inside, and made his way into the burning house to see what he could rescue.

“There was thick black smoke, but I was anxious to find the dog and I brought him out,” he said. “There was no sound, nothing to indicate that there was anyone in the house.”

The neighbour said that members of the fire brigade rescued other animals, including a number of lizards, a snake, and an African parrot.

Other than the animals, neighbours believed the house to be empty at the time, because there were no cars in the drive.

An upstairs room was completely gutted by fire and the window had been blown out. There was also significant damage to the roof. Units of Cork City Fire Brigade and Cork County Fire Service from Carrigaline attended the scene. They located Ms Dunlea’s body in the upstairs front bedroom.

Firefighters also smashed in the door of a neighbouring house because of fears that the fire was spreading.

Fortunately, the house was empty. Its owner said yesterday that it had been rented up to last Friday, when the tenants moved out.

Marie Cassidy, the State pathologist, and members of the Garda crime scene unit attended the scene yesterday.

Prof Cassidy carried out a preliminary investigation. A full autopsy was to be carried out at Cork University Hospital last night.

Ms Dunlea is survived by her three children, Aaron, Megan, and Darragh Dunlea-O’Brien, who range in age from nine to 12. Aaron is due to make his Confirmation in two weeks.

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