Fire tragedy: ‘She was like a sister to me’

FELIXSTOWE: “I was her world and she was mine” – they are touching words of a devastated woman grieving for her best friend.

They were like sisters to each other, holidaying together and keeping an eye on one another.

But today Sheila Fahy’s world is in pieces after losing her best friend Carole Rawlinson in an horrific fire.

The 65-year-old died at her home in Larkhill Way, Felixstowe, on Wednesday night after the blaze ripped through the lounge at her bungalow.

As the fire took hold Mrs Rawlinson’s pet dog Oli made his escape through the open back door and is now being cared for by Mrs Fahy, of St Mary’s Close, Trimley, who today paid heartfelt tribute to her treasured friend.

“She was the kindest, most generous person I have ever known,” she said. “She was good to everybody, never doing anything to harm anyone. She was like a sister to me and I was to her.”

Mrs Fahy met Mrs Rawlinson around 27 years ago when the pair worked together at the St Felix Home for the Blind.

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Mrs Rawlinson was a cook at the home, while Mrs Fahy was matron.

The women became close friends, holidaying and in recent years Mrs Fahy was her friend’s carer after she was diagnosed with emphysema, a lung condition that causes shortness of breath.

“She didn’t need a carer she had me, we all rallied around her so we could always make sure she was alright.”

The 68-year-old was in bed when she got a phone call at around 10.10pm on Wednesday –the same time Mrs Rawlinson religiously called her each evening.

“I thought it was Carole, I picked up the phone and started talking to her,” she added.

“But it was the woman from the home alarm company to tell me the alarm had gone off and there was a fire, she was asking if Carole was with me.

“I will miss her terribly – in my mind I have gone through it over and over again.”

Mrs Rawlinson divorced from her husband around 30 years ago and has one daughter, who she was estranged from.

Fire investigators and police scenes of crime officers spent yesterday sifting through the charred wreckage of the bungalow in Larkhill Way as they tried to determine the cause of the blaze.

They were still not able to pinpoint why the fire started – but it was looking less and less likely to have been an arson attack.

“We are still waiting for the conclusion of the investigation but it is not looking suspicious,” said Det Sgt Andrew Smethurst, of Felixstowe CID.

He said there was “absolutely nothing” to link the fire to reports of a gang of youngsters seen in the area shortly before.

No post mortem has yet taken place to identify the cause of death.

The coroner has been informed and an inquest will be held.

Fire officers believe the victim, who has serious health problems, may have been dead before they reached the scene of the blaze around 10pm on Wednesday.

It is understood she was found in her bedroom, fully clothed, and didn’t appear to have made an attempt to get out of the property.

n Do you want to pay tribute to Mrs Rawlinson? If so write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or alternatively you can send an e-mail to evening

n Ipswich family pays tribute to a former Ipswich schoolboy killed when a fire ravaged his home in Colchester – page 9

n Opinion – page 6

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