St Leonards: Arrest Over Hospice Fire

Police have named two patients who died in a suspected arson attack at a hospice - as it emerged that a murder suspect facing questioning over their deaths was a fellow patient.

Jill Moon, 62, and David Denness, 81, were treated for smoke inhalation following the blaze at St Michael's Hospice in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, but died in hospital several hours later.

Post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out to establish their cause of deaths as police wait to quiz a 67-year-old man on suspicion of double murder.

In a statement, the hospice confirmed that the unnamed suspect - who remains too ill in hospital to be questioned - was a patient. Police had previously only said he was"known to the hospice''.

He was initially detained on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life, but was then further held on suspicion of two counts of murder, Sussex Police said.

A major incident was declared by emergency teams in the early hours of Saturday morning as the fire took hold, which led to 23 residents and nine members of staff being evacuated.

Celia Pyke-Lees, the chief executive of St Michael's Hospice, said: "On the night of the fire our nursing team were true heroines, and we are so grateful to them all for getting all our patients out of the hospice.

"Our main priority now is supporting our patients and their families along with all the hospice staff and volunteers.''

She thanked the local community and urged people to visit the hospice website and Facebook page for information on donations needed.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Preston, of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: ``This is a complicated investigation and our thoughts remain with the families of the residents who have sadly passed away.''

The smoke damaged hospice

From Monday

Celia Pyke-Lees, chief executive of St Michael's Hospice, said: "We are extremely grateful to the police, fire services, local care homes and the hospital for their support.

"We would also like to extend our thanks to all staff, volunteers and supporters for all their support.  Thank you for all your kind donations received so far which are helping us make our patients more comfortable.''

An East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: ``At the height of the incident crews used 15 breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets and four main jets to tackle the blaze.

"The thoughts of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service are with the residents and staff of St Michael's Hospice.''

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