Tributes paid to dedicated brothers who died within a day of each other after Hornchurch house blaze

PUBLISHED: 11:36 10 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:53 10 February 2017

A firefighter inside the mid-terraced house where a fire took hold earlier today. Photo: Ann-Marie Abbasah

A firefighter inside the mid-terraced house where a fire took hold earlier today. Photo: Ann-Marie Abbasah


Two brothers killed in a house fire in Hornchurch, remained dedicated to each other despite the years living in two different countries.

As close in life, they were in death as both men died within 24 of hours of each other as a result of a house fire on Monday.

Former Irish Navy serviceman Joesph Whelan, 74, had travelled to the borough to spend time with his brother James, 76, of Laburnum Avenue, Hornchurch, who was unwell.

He travelled from Cobh, County Cork, with his wife Anne, 68, to take care of his brother, who was suffering from a debilitating bad back.

“It is devastating,” said Martin Whelan, James’ son.

“He was a lovely, lovely man who didn’t have a mean bone in his body.

“He leaves behind four grandsons and two children [Martin and sister Joanne].

“He will be sadly missed, that goes without saying.”

Four fire engines and 21 firefighters from three stations – Hornchurch, Dagenham and Romford attended the blaze.

Desperate efforts by the emergency services could not save Mrs Whelan, who died at the scene.

A neighbour, of the couple, who wished to remain unnamed added: “Joe and Anne just wanted to give them a bit of a break by helping look after Jim for a few days.

Another neighbour continued: “They were absolutely devoted to each other. Both were very private but the Whelans are a lovely family and very supportive of the Cobh community and their neighbours.”

Relatives and neighbours both here and in Ireland are reeling from the shocking and sudden tragedy to hit the family.

A neighbour who witnessed the rescue attempts added: “I watched the firemen bring them out. I was compelled to watch, willing them to do everything they could.”

A police spokesman said: “Following an investigation by the police and London Fire Brigade no evidence of a suspicious fire was uncovered.”

The tragic deaths have now been referred to the Coroner’s Court.

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