Murder charge for ‘hero’ of fatal fire

A NURSE who claimed he rescued patients from a fire at a nursing home was charged with murder yesterday following the blaze that killed five people and left 13 critically injured.

Roger Dean was charged with four murders and was expected to be charged with a fifth. Four people died on Friday when fire ravaged the nursing home in Sydney’s suburban Quakers Hill neighbourhood. The fifth, 97-year-old Ella Wood, died in hospital yesterday.

Dean, 35, appeared before a magistrate by video link from prison without entering a plea or applying for bail. He is due to appear in court on Thursday.

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Last week Dean told journalists he had braved dense smoke to rescue helpless patients. “I just quickly did what I could to get everyone out,” he said.

Detective Superintendent Michael Willing said Dean was among several witnesses helping with inquiries before he was charged. “Last night, detectives were speaking to the man [and] formed the opinion that they had sufficient evidence to place him under arrest.”

He would not give details of the suspected motive nor say what led police to believe Dean was responsible. Willing said the crime scene was too dangerous to be examined for forensic evidence.

Two fires started in separate areas of the home and tore through the single-storey complex. Part of the roof collapsed, and firefighters crawled through blinding smoke to rescue more than 80 patients, many of whom are bedridden or suffer from dementia.

Another 13 patients have been admitted to intensive care units for treatment of severe burns and smoke inhalation. Seventeen were being treated for less serious injuries.