A MURDER hunt has been launched to find the arsonist responsible for a blaze that killed a dad-of-three.
A team of 30 detectives and police officers has been set up in Hartlepool to try and snare the killer who started the fire in the living room of Andrew Simon’s home.
The 44-year-old died from smoke inhalation in hospital after flames licked through his Dent Street home in the early hours of Tuesday, June 11. Superintendent Peter McPhilips said he is now leading a “major murder investigation” and that an incident room has been set up to sift through information that could help find the killer.
Officers are also hitting the streets to knock on doors and reassure residents that the “really unusual offence” is a one-off.
Supt McPhilips said: “I’m convinced there is a reason behind the arson and clear motivation as to why it happened.
“Inquiries are ongoing into how the fire was started but we believe it was deliberate.
“I’m also sure that the person responsible is in Hartlepool and there are people out there who know who that person is.”
The action comes after a 35-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder on Tuesday in connection with the death was released with no further action yesterday morning.
A 40-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of arson has also been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and remains on bail pending further enquiries.
Supt McPhilips said: “The key to solving Andrew’s murder lies in the heart of the local Hartlepool community and I am appealing for assistance from members of the public to identify the person responsible.
“I want to hear from anyone who may have seen Andrew in the days leading up to his death or crucially in the hours leading up to the fire.
“We are speaking to relatives, neighbours and those who knew him to try and paint a picture of his life and possible motives for the murder.”
Supt McPhilips said Andrew was a “much-loved son and brother” and his three children now live outside of the area.
He added: “Family liaison officers are supporting relatives and my thoughts are with Andrew’s family.
“I want to reassure local residents that we have a team of detectives working from a Major Incident Room in Hartlepool and that officers will be active in the local area.
“Incidents such as this are rare and we are doing everything we can to identify the person responsible. There will be a visible presence through extra patrols in the Dent Street area.”
Police arrested the 35-year-old man after raiding two town properties – one in Rium Terrace, off Raby Road, and the other in Furness Street.
Police officers and scenes of crime experts were seen going in and out of the properties throughout Tuesday.
Mr Simon died in the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, shortly after the fire.
Three fire engines, two from Stranton Fire Station and one from the Headland, tackled the flames at 12.45am.
Shocked neighbours placed flowers at the doorstep of the house after it was revealed that Mr Simon had died.
Anyone with any information should contact Hartlepool CID on the non emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.