‘Now they can build a new house...’

Six-year-old Arabella banks and (inset) fire victim Craig Westhorp
Six-year-old Arabella banks and (inset) fire victim Craig Westhorp

CARING youngsters have pulled together to help out their friend who tragically lost a brother in a devastating blaze.

Craig Westhorp, 20, died when his family home in Formby Close, Hartlepool, was engulfed by flames on Monday morning.

As shocked neighbours recalled the horror of the fire, little Arabella Banks decided to do something to make a difference.

The six-year-old, who is good friends with Craig’s sister Sharne, seven, and lives in the same street, came up with idea to start a fund for the family.

She decorated a shoe box that was quickly filled with money when she knocked on doors in the close and asked for donations.

The youngster was helped in her kind-hearted quest by her brother, Matthew, four, and friends Holly Harrison, eight, and seven-year-old Oliver Hamilton.

And when Arabella was told that more than £230 had been raised, she beamed “they’ll be able to build a new house now”.

Her mum, Jo, 39, helped the gang of Good Samaritans as they spent two hours raising money, and was “astounded” by the generosity of people.

She said: “At Arabella’s age they don’t realise how much money is worth, but she wants to do all she can for her friend so she can see her again soon.

“Arabella wanted to take Sharne to the park with us to take her away from it all for a bit, but we did not know their contact address.

“The next thing I know, she’s coming down the stairs with a box and said if each house puts a £1 in, it will make over £50.

“She went to the conservatory with Holly and started decorating the box and was really keen to do something to help.”

Arabella and Holly wrote ‘have a heart’ and ‘anything is better than nothing’ on top of the shoe box.

Jo, who is married to Mike, 43, added: “Sharne is a lovely little girl. It is a real tragedy what has happened because her life will never be the same again. I didn’t know him well, but he was always at their cars fixing them up with his close brother Reece. He always had a smile.

“It has pulled the neighbourhood together. Lots of people were out in their dressing gowns when the fire happened even though it was 5am. People were trying to get up and in the windows to see if anyone was inside.

“Everyone has wanted to know what is going on and how they all are.

“They have lost everything and I know any donations would be appreciated.”

Sharne was not in the house at the time, but her 17-year-old brother Reece and step-dad Andrew Sutherland were.

They both managed to get to safety, but the fire brigade could not save Craig despite their best efforts.

The family also lost their cat Susie in the blaze.

Flowers still lay outside the house while hundreds of tributes have been made online about Craig.

His family released a touching statement in which they called him a “devoted son” and a “big gentle giant”.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the blaze.

l AN inquest has been opened and adjourned into Craig’s death.

Coroner’s officer Raymond Baldwin opened the inquest at Hartlepool Coroner’s Court and said Craig had been identified by a silver Celtic ring on his right ring-finger.

The ring was later shown to his mother, Paula Sutherland, 43, who attended the hearing along with other relatives.

A full inquest is expected to take place at the court later this month.

• Anyone who wants to put more money in the shoebox can ring Jo on (01429) 864833.