Woman rescued from Collier Row arson was victim of “mistaken identity”

A woman rescued from her home after a suspected arson attack left her trapped believes she was a victim of “mistaken idenitiy”.

Rita O’Neill was saved by firefighters who were luckily called to her address in Ashdown Walk, Collier Row, when her next door neighbour Margaret McGrath heard her screaming for help.

Officers inspecting the scene found a rag covered in solvent which, they believe, was set alight deliberately.

They classified it as suspicious and drafted in detectives to carry out a full investigation.

Forensic investigators are still running tests to identify the liquid.

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But Rita believes she could have been the victim of “a case of mistaken identity” because she said she did not know anyone with a grudge against her.

Rita, 59, was just drifting off to sleep in bed in her maisonette when she smelled smoke and saw it “billowing out of the window” shortly after 1am on Sunday.

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Rita said: “I went to the top of the stairs and my whole front door was a ball of fire. There was no escape for me so I started shouting out for help.”

“I was hyperventilating. I didn’t know if I was going to get out.”

The flames destroyed wires connecting Rita’s home phone and electricity and she didn’t have a mobile to make the emergency call herself.

Luckily Margaret heard her.

Margaret, 58, said: “I realised there was a panic in her voice. I got up and saw the smoke. Then when I went downstairs to make the call I could see the flames above my front door as well.”

The blaze filled the entire porch area outside the two homes. Margaret had a door at the back to escape.

“I could hear cracking which I thought was the glass in the front door. It was fierce. I thought the fire was going to come in,” Margaret said.

Rita added: “Luckily enough the fire brigade came on time.”

Rita was rescued from her home by firefighters and treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation while police cordoned off her home and searched for evidence.

Rita said: “It was lucky they didn’t put it through my letterbox.”

Anyone with information should contact DC Diane Cowan on 0300 123 1212.

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