‘Heart of gold’: Woman, 18, died in North Shields fire treated as suspected arson

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An 18-year-old woman is confirmed to have died in a North Shields fire that happened on Vicarage Street in the early hours of Monday morning - the incident is being treated as suspected arson.

Shortly before 3:45 am on Monday, January 16, Northumbria Police received a request for assistance from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, who were in attendance at a fire on Vicarage Street.

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Officers and emergency services attended the scene and three people were taken to hospital. One has since been released. Sadly the body of a fourth person was found inside the address.

While formal identification is yet to take place, officers believe it to be 18-year-old Leah Casson. Her family have been notified and are being supported by specialist officers at this time.

Kerry Riches, who writes that she is a family friend has set up a GoFundMe page to help the family of the 18-year-old. The fundraiser has already raised over £1,000.

Ms Riches wrote: "Hi my name is Kerry and I am a friend of the family.. they have gave me permission to do this fundraiser on their behalf. As you may all have read on social media there was a house fire in Vicarage Street Sunday morning.

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"As a result of this terrible incident a young talented girl with a heart of gold has lost her life and the other members of the family were hospitalised. We need our community to pull together to give Leah the send off she deserves and get the family back into accommodation and help with furnishings, clothing etc.

"The money will be sent to a beneficiary who will take care of the designation of funds to ensure that the family get the full benefit of the funds raised, and all their needs will be covered."

The fire happened on Vicarage Street in North Shields (Image: Google Streetview)The fire happened on Vicarage Street in North Shields (Image: Google Streetview)
The fire happened on Vicarage Street in North Shields (Image: Google Streetview)

Tributes to the 18-year-old have poured in on social media with those that knew her saying Leah was "an angel taken too soon" and an "amazing friend."

An investigation into the cause of the fire remains ongoing, and at this time officers are treating it as suspected arson. A number of residents have been evacuated due to structural safety concerns and they have been given alternative accommodation.

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A cordon is in place and additional officers remain in the area, carrying out door-to-door enquiries and offering reassurance to residents.

Detective Inspector Louise Jenkins, the Senior Investigating Officer on the case said: “This is an absolutely tragic incident which has resulted in the death of a woman, left three other people seriously injured and a number of neighbours have been affected.

“We are determined to establish exactly what happened in those moments leading up to the fire, and have been working around the clock with the support of our partners from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, since we first received their call for assistance. While enquiries are at an early stage, we are not ruling anything out and are currently treating the incident as suspected arson.

“We have specialist investigators on the case who will be carrying out detailed forensic enquiries, as well as reviewing CCTV and working with residents to establish if anyone might have seen what happened in the moments prior to the fire.

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“We are also asking for anyone else who might have information to come forward and share what they know – any detail, no matter small might be just what we are looking for.”

Police are also appealing for anyone who might have information about the fire, asking they get in touch via the ‘Tell us Something’ page on their website, or by calling 101 quoting log NP-20230116-0067.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have also provided comment on the tragedy.

Area Manager Phil Clark, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), said “We can confirm that five crews from across Tyne and Wear and our Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP) were on the scene to extinguish this fire in a matter of minutes.

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“Three people had already self-rescued from the property upon our arrival and our crews immediately began to try and get the fire under control to prevent it from spreading to nearby properties. Our crews recovered a fourth person from the building once the fire was extinguished but sadly she was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We are supporting our colleagues at Northumbria Police with their investigation and the thoughts of everyone at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are with the friends and family of those involved, and the wider community in North Shields.

“Our crews will remain in the area in the coming days and we want to thank those firefighters who responded for their professionalism. We would echo the appeal from Northumbria Police for anyone with information about the circumstances around this incident to get in touch.”