Aus nursing home fire - murder charges

2011-11-19 13:32

Sydney - A male nurse was on Saturday charged with murder after a fire ripped through a Sydney nursing home as the death toll climbed to four, police said.

"Detectives have charged a man with four counts of murder following a fatal fire at an aged care facility in Sydney's north-west," New South Wales police said in a statement.

The 35-year-old local man was refused bail and is due to face court later in the day, although it could not be confirmed that he was employed by the old people's home.

Hundreds of firefighters, police and paramedics raced to the Quakers Hill Nursing Home to tackle the blaze on Friday. Three elderly residents were declared dead at the scene and a fourth died overnight.

More than 30 others remain in hospital, some in serious condition with severe burns.

Police had been treating the incident as suspicious after it emerged that the fire was believed to have broken out in two areas of the facility.

Superintendent Michael Willing, who is leading the case, said Saturday police acted on information they received after making an appeal.

"We received information from the public and that is being assessed as we speak," he told reporters.

The blaze broke out in the early hours of the morning after an automatic fire alarm went off with emergency services finding a "chaotic and tragic" scene.

Battling thick black smoke so dense they could not see their hands in front of their faces, firefighters evacuated around 100 disorientated and frail people, some blind or suffering dementia.

Willing said it had been a harrowing experience for everyone concerned.

"Everyone has been affected by this tragic set of circumstances," he said.

"This has had an impact on all the investigators but that pales into insignificance to what the families are going through. This has been a tragedy for Sydney and the entire community."

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