Fire victims' family happy at U.S. arrest 20 years after fatal blaze in Middleport
THE family of a mother and son who were killed in a house fire more than 20 years ago have welcomed the arrest of a suspect.
Staffordshire Police revealed yesterday that a 44-year-old man had been detained in the U.S. on suspicion of murdering Marilyn Cook and her teenage son Nicholas, who died following a fire at their home in Travers Street, Middleport, in 1992.
The extradition process to bring the unnamed suspect back to the UK for questioning is now underway, but is expected to take several months.
Nicholas's father Peter Cook, of Biddulph, who was divorced from Mrs Cook, said yesterday: "We're pleased someone is being brought back for it, but there is nothing else I can say at the moment."
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Nicholas, aged 16, died in the fire on April 9, while his 40-year-old mother lost her life in hospital 11 days later.
They had lived at the rented property with Steven Hillman, Mrs Cook's partner, who survived the fire but suffered serious injuries. He has since died.
The results of the post-mortem examinations for Ms Cook and her son gave their cause of death as smoke inhalation. Grandfather Alf Dytiche lived in Travers Street when the fire took place. The 83-year-old, who now lives in Lyndhurst Street, Middleport, said: "I remember the fire happening. Everybody was standing out in the street.
"It was very shocking and everybody was talking about it. It was very sad – nobody deserves that. It's good someone has been arrested after all this time."
Police launched a huge investigation following the blaze, which happened on General Election Day.
Mrs Cook's then 20-year-old daughter Maxine – who did not live with her mother – along with Mr Hillman made repeated appeals for information and officers spoke to 5,000 people, but an arrest was never made.
In October 1992, detectives said they had drafted in Interpol to search for an unnamed man they wanted to speak to, who was believed to have gone abroad.
In 1997, police named their suspect as Faisal Latif, Ms Cook's landlord, during the inquest into the deaths.
A detective told the hearing that police had traced 26 people who had been contacted by Mr Latif to try to evict the family from the house.
He said the couple's housing benefit was £77 short of the £295 a month rent on the house and that may have been one reason why Mr Latif wanted them out.
Police yesterday refused to confirm the identity of the arrested man. A spokesman said: "The suspect arrested on January 8 is to be extradited after inquiries by Staffordshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service."