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Fire tragedy boy was dad's little angel

PUBLISHED: 13:30 03 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:06 03 March 2010

AN Ipswich community was left shocked today after a seven-year-old schoolboy died in a house fire.

The youngster, Anton Fox, was certified dead at the scene after firefighters brought him out of his bedroom at home in Marlow Road on the Whitehouse estate.

AN Ipswich community was left shocked today after a seven-year-old schoolboy died in a house fire.

The youngster, Anton Fox, was certified dead at the scene after firefighters brought him out of his bedroom at home in Marlow Road on the Whitehouse estate.

His mother, Ester, five-year-old sister Tamara, a brother, and his 14-year-old uncle Thomas, are all in hospital. Ester is five-months pregnant.

Anton and his siblings are all pupils at Handford Hall School.

Their father, Mark Ditcham choked back his tears today as he told of the son who was "my little angel.

"He would do anything for his family. He was head of his class at Handford Hall. I cannot find anything bad to say about him."

In the wake of the tragedy, investigators were trying to solve the riddle of the smoke alarm in the council house.

Officials at Civic Centre today said all their homes were fitted with working alarms – but firefighters said there was no sign of any alarm in the house at the time of the blaze.

"When the house was handed over to the tenants there was a battery-powered smoke alarm fitted and in working order," said council spokesman Max Stocker.

"I can't say for certain it was there at the time of the fire, but it was certainly there when the family moved in."

Paul Seager from Suffolk Fire Service said they could find no sign of a smoke alarm when they were called to the house.

"If any of our tenants don't have a fire alarm they can get a free one, in full working order, from the council housing office," said Mr Stocker.

"If they want a second one, they can also get one from there for £4 – including a battery," he said.

The council is now installing mains-powered smoke alarms because it had found that people had not replaced batteries or had taken batteries to power other household items.

Shocked neighbours were this morning coming to terms with the tragedy on their doorstep.

Fire broke out at about 1.30am today, destroying one bedroom and causing serious smoke damage to the rest of the house in a small cul de sac opposite Whitehouse Junior School.

The blaze is believed to have been caused by an electric fire – described by the fire service as a two-bar radiant-type heater – brought into the bedroom to keep the youngster warm on a bitterly cold night.

The metal-framed house had been updated more than ten years ago, but it did not have central heating.

Neighbour Nick Roper-Harwood saw the fire appliances and fire investigators cars when he arrived home from his nightshift at Sainsbury's in Warren Heath at about 3.30am.

"I saw all these blue flashing lights and I thought it was our house at first," he said.

Mr Roper-Harwood said that other neighbours had been taking things to and from the hospital.

"We don't know the family who live in the house with the fire. We recognise them and exchange Christmas cards but we don't know their names," he added.

Firefighters said that at the time of the fire, eight people were in the house.

An adult and three children were taken to Ipswich Hospital for treatment, but they are not believed to be seriously injured.

Local newsagent Paul Emmett from Ulster Avenue News delivered papers to the house, but did not know the family well.

"I know them as customers but no more than that," he said.

"It's shocked everyone around here. This is a community shop and it has come as real shock to everyone around here – lots of people are talking about what has happened," he said.

Ester Fox's family live in nearby Ulster Avenue, but they were too upset to talk about the fire today.

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