Student nurse’s death in fire ‘caused by cat toppling Christmas tree’

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A fire tragedy that killed a teenager may have been caused by a cat toppling a Christmas tree onto a lit candle, it has emerged.

Natalie Merry, 18, died while her mother Jennifer, 49, and boyfriend Alistair Innes, 22, were hospitalised after the blaze ripped through the terraced home in Ayr.

Investigators are now probing the theory that the inferno on Sunday evening was triggered by one of two family cats jumping into the festive tree, causing it to fall on the candle.

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A source close to the inquiry said: “Every avenue is being explored but there is every possibility a cat got into the Christmas tree and it fell onto a naked flame.

“Forensic tests and analysis are still ongoing but the tree and candle or candles are part of the picture.

“If this was the case, it was clearly a freak accident and terrible tragedy but it’s early days for the whole legal and investigative process.”

Natalie was a student nurse at the University of the West of Scotland and worked part-time in a care home in Ayr.

She was pronounced dead at the scene after the alarm was raised at the two storey home in the town’s York Street at around 8.20pm on Sunday.

Neighbours told how Natalie’s mother urged rescuers giving her first aid to save her daughter, who was still inside.

Mr Innes, who is thought to have been injured leaping from an upper window, paid an emotional tribute to his girlfriend of two years on social media.

He said: “I’m absolutely heartbroken, had the happiest and best two years of my life, she made me so happy, going to miss waking up to her beautiful wee face every day.

“Love you so much Natalie.”

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service would not confirm or deny that investigators are probing the Christmas tree line of inquiry.

James Scott, SFRS local senior officer for South Ayrshire, said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with all of those who are affected at this time.

“A joint investigation between SFRS and Police Scotland is currently ongoing.”