The Mirror, 09/08/2003, p1
by SHAUN MILNE
A MOTHER and three of her children were killed yesterday when fire
swept through their home.
Paula McClung, 28, and sons David Berry, nine, and 17-month-old Josh
McClung perished in the ferocious blaze in Bathgate, West Lothian.
Her seven-year-old son Allan Berry was rushed to hospital but later
died of his injuries.
Paula’s youngest son Jamie McClung, aged just four months, was last
night fighting for his life at the Sick Children’s Hospital in
Her husband Paul – the father of the two younger boys – was at Jamie’s
bedside last night, praying for him to survive.
Firefighters battled to rescue the family after the alarm was raised at
But the blaze was so intense that Paula and her children had no chance
The inferno left the end-of-terrace house a blackened shell.
Police are now investigating whether the fire was started deliberately.
HeadLine: HORROR OF LATE NIGHT INFERNO: BLAZE TAKES PAULA & HER LITTLE
The Mirror, 09/08/2003, p4&5
by SHAUN MILNE
A MUM was killed with three of her children yesterday after flames
ripped through their home as they slept.
Despite desperate rescue attempts, Paula McClung, 28, died with
17-month-old son Josh McClung and his half-brother David Berry, nine.
Another son, seven-year-old Allan Berry, died just hours later in
Last night, Paula’s youngest, four-month-old Jamie McClung, was still
fighting for life after being dragged from the inferno.
But medics warned his chance of survival was “slim” as he lay in a
critical condition at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
And in a shocking twist, police yesterday refused to rule out the
possibility that the fire may have been started deliberately.
Senior officers were drafted into the area to prepare the ground work
for a possible murder probe.
The alarm had been raised at Falside Terrace, in Bathgate, West
Lothian, at around 2am after a neighbour spotted smoke billowing from
the roof of number 44.
Six fire engines and six ambulances rushed to the scene and mercy crews
quickly pulled Paula and her four sons from the burning house.
All five were rushed to St John’s Hospital, Livingston, but the mum and
two of her children were declared dead.
The two surviving tots were later transferred to Edinburgh’s Royal
Hospital for Sick Children, where Allan died a short time later.
Paula’s husband, Paul McClung – father of Josh and Jamie – had not been
at home at the time of the blaze.
But the devastated 27-year-old spent most of yesterday at the bedside
of his only surviving child.
It was not yet known whether Paula’s previous partner, Scots Guardsman
David Ferme, had been told of the tragedy.
Last night, the family’s three-bedroomed home was in ruins – a huge
section of the roof had collapsed, while every windows had shattered in
Neighbour Alan Meiklem, 40, a joiner, was first on the scene before the
fire engines arrived.
And he said: “I was reading in my bedroom when I heard a couple of loud
bangs, which I since realised must have been the glass windows popping.
“Then I saw the flickering lights of the huge flames reflected on the
building and I knew something was very wrong.
“I ran to the house just as another girl came towards it screaming. She
had called the fire brigade.
“There was nothing we could do. The fire seemed too far gone by then
“The front door was alight in flames and the wooden porch above it was
“I thought that was strange because it seemed to be burning as much on
the outside as it was on the inside.
“Thick and choking black smoke billowed out the windows.
“Soon three or four fire engines were on the scene. I watched them
carry three kids and an adult out. But then I left. I didn’t want to
watch any more.
“It is such a tragedy. It was only yesterday I saw them all playing in
Laura McLaren, 23, said she and her husband woke shortly before 3am to
the sound of smashing glass.
She said: “We saw smoke coming out of the roof and the firemen were
breaking the roof up.
“The fire engines were outside in the street and there were ambulances
Little David and Allan, who had gone to Windyknowe Primary School, had
been playing at neighbour Diane Strang’s house just hours before the
blaze with her children Ross, eight, and Kirsty, four,
And Diane, 35, said: “When I first heard when had happened, my heart
was pounding. It’s terrible, devastating.”
Grieving family friend Margaret Dyet, 36, described Paula and Paul as a
“happy and loving couple”.
She said: “I remember the two of them always being together.”
Neighbour, Karin Imadanyen, 28, said: “It was a completely horrific
scene. I felt completely saddened and, in fact, a tear came to my eye
when I saw it.
“I have stayed here all of my life and I can’t believe that this is
something that could have been done deliberately.”
Fire investigation teams and police had cordoned off the street as they
tried to establish the cause of the blaze.
And cops were waiting for the results of forensic tests after initial
examinations suggested a fire-raiser may have to blame.
One source said: “Due to the seriousness of the fire, the number of
casualties and because witnesses are still being spoken to it’s being
treated as suspicious.”
Appealing for witnesses, a spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police
said: “We are not ruling anything out at this stage.”
Steven Torrie, deputy fire master with Lothian and Borders Fire
Brigade, said: “The fire itself was not particularly difficult to
“But the investigation will be a much more complex issue.”
He added: “The crews rescued the mother and four of the children and
attempted to resuscitate them.
“This really is a particularly traumatic incident for the family,
friends and the whole community.”
Police eventually removed the cordons from around the two-storey house
at 1.45pm, after forensic teams had pulled out.
Through the broken front window of the living room, the large
television screen could be seen was stained with streaks of smoke.
Just feet away, the hallway was little more than a blackened shell,
strewn with pipes and burnt out debris.
Elsewhere, toys lay scattered in the front garden along with shards of
glass, mangled foam and an upturned child’s bike.
Meanwhile, mourners had already started arriving with flowers and
cuddly toys – propping them up against the hedge next to the driveway.
One note simply read: “God bless. Sleep in peace.”
Paul was last night being comforted by his parents Paul snr and Jessie
at their home in nearby Bo’ness.
The distraught dad, who is studying at West Lothian College, said only:
“I don’t want to talk about it right now, it’s just too soon.”
But angry Jessie clearly believes the fire was started deliberately,
adding: “Please catch the bastards that did this.”
Paula’s grief-stricken mother Marion Berry said: “None of us can
believe what’s happened. We are going through sheer hell right now.”
Categories: Daily Mirror articles