Caroline McGovern, 13, screamed “Help me” and “I’m burning ... run” as she gasped for breath in her burning home in Omagh, Co Tyrone.
Her heavy drinking, depressive father, 36-year-old Arthur McElhill, killed himself, his partner, Lorraine McGovern, 29, and their five children when he doused their house with petrol and torched it in November 2007. The farm labourer, who had a history of suicide attempts and was twice found guilty of sex attacks on teenage girls, is believed to have started the blaze after Ms McGovern threatened to leave him.
Fire crews found the burned bodies of all seven in the house at Lammy Crescent. Caroline, the eldest child, still had a phone in one hand and her Rosary beads in the other. Her siblings were seven-year-old Sean, four-year-old Bellina, one-year-old Clodagh and 10-month-old baby James.
Relatives from both extended families wept and shielded their ears as her desperate cries echoed around Omagh Courthouse as a recording of her 999 call was played on the opening day of the inquest yesterday.
Muffled screams for help could be heard from other family members. The call lasted about six minutes, but Caroline only spoke for the first 45 seconds.
State pathologist Dr Jack Crane and assistant Dr Alistair Bentley earlier said all seven had died from either carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation.