Excavator combs ruins as two feared dead

 

A woman feared killed in a suspicious house fire south of Brisbane early this morning had been given a temporary protection order by a court just two weeks ago, police have revealed.

Chief Superintendent Brian Swan said a 49-year-old woman and a 49-year-old man - her former partner - were feared dead inside the townhouse at Browns Plains, after fire broke out just before 4am.

"It is our fear that they are inside that building," he said.

Police said early indications suggest the fire was deliberately lit.

 

An excavator was brought in to go through the rubble. Picture: Liam Kidston
An excavator was brought in to go through the rubble. Picture: Liam Kidston

An excavator had started peeling through the rubble of what remains of the destroyed unit before 5pm.

Police and fire investigators have directed workers from the demolition company of what needs to happen as the delicate process to remove what's left of the home begins.

Chief Supt Swan earlier said investigators had not yet been able to do a proper search of the home because it was not safe to enter what was left of the building.

Firefighters and police outside the Browns Plains home. Picture: Brad Fleet
Firefighters and police outside the Browns Plains home. Picture: Brad Fleet

"The scene is such that it is quite a complex scene, quite a difficult scene," he said.

"It will be some time before we can safely search to see if there are remains present."

Queensland Police cadaver dogs arrived at the scene about 1pm to sniff through the rubble and ruin of the home in an attempt to find the pair inside.

Investigations continue into the blaze but early indications suggest it was deliberately lit. Picture: Brad Fleet
Investigations continue into the blaze but early indications suggest it was deliberately lit. Picture: Brad Fleet

Chief Supt Swan said police were investigating the nature of the pair's relationship, but confirmed a domestic violence order was issued by the Beenleigh Magistrates Court on February 9 over concerns for the woman's safety.

"Any incidents concerning the couple will form part of the wider investigation," Chief Supt Swan said.

Queensland Police cadaver dogs were at the scene this afternoon. Picture: Brad Fleet
Queensland Police cadaver dogs were at the scene this afternoon. Picture: Brad Fleet

Police said the 49-year-old man was believed to be in the area at the time, with a silver ute believed to be connected to him found in a carpark nearby.

It comes after The Courier-Mail reported two crime scenes had been established by police - one at the townhouse and one relating to a car which police this morning towed out of a nearby shopping complex carpark.

Fire destroyed the Browns Plains home. Picture: Brad Fleet
Fire destroyed the Browns Plains home. Picture: Brad Fleet

According to one shopkeeper at the Wembley Rd shops, officers towed the car from the carpark at about 9am.

Chief Supt Swan said the incident was being treated as suspicious but said it was too early to tell whether an accelerant was used in the fire.

A police statement issued later, about 2pm, said "preliminary investigations indicate the fire was deliberately lit".

Fire tears through a two-storey unit block at Browns Plains. Picture: Nikita Rush
Fire tears through a two-storey unit block at Browns Plains. Picture: Nikita Rush

Detectives are working with firefighters to determine the "cause and circumstances" of the fire and have appealed to anyone with information to come forward.

Anyone with information about the relationship between the pair is also encouraged to contact police.

Chief Supt Swan's comments come after neighbours reported hearing a terrified scream and a woman yelling out a man's name moments before the townhouse exploded in flames early this morning.

Firefighters at the scene. Emergency services were called about 4am, with investigators remaining on scene throughout the day. Picture: Brad Fleet
Firefighters at the scene. Emergency services were called about 4am, with investigators remaining on scene throughout the day. Picture: Brad Fleet

One woman who lives in the same gated complex reported hearing a woman scream a man's name.

"It was a terrifying scream for help," said neighbour Hannah McCormick.

"I heard a lady screaming out for help. She just started screaming out (his name).

"She was yelling his name, it was terrifying."

Neighbour Hannah McCormick said she heard terrifying screams for help. Picture: Brad Fleet
Neighbour Hannah McCormick said she heard terrifying screams for help. Picture: Brad Fleet

Miss McCormick said police had attended the house just days earlier, for an incident she described as a woman "being thrown out a window."

Another neighbour claimed to have heard a large fight at the home only a few nights ago.

The unnamed resident recalled hearing screaming, glass breaking and the sound of what they described as metal chains being dragged along the floor.

Firefighters and police are investigating the blaze. Picture: Brad Fleet
Firefighters and police are investigating the blaze. Picture: Brad Fleet

Other neighbours said they heard screaming, arguing and glass breaking in the early hours of this morning.

"Absolutely terrible to wake up to," one woman said.

"No idea how the fire started but to go up as fast as it did, I'm not sure how that happened."

The woman said she woke up at 3.30am to get ready for work and heard "slight screams".

Fifteen minutes later, someone was banging on her door telling her to get out.

"I went to get ready and someone was downstairs banging and screaming for us to get out as the place (a few) doors up was on fire," she said.

"I only saw her the other day as she was getting out of her car. I hadn't seen him for a few weeks but had seen the police come and go a few times in the last few months.

"It was just so sad to watch it happening in front of us."

Police and firefighters at the scene of a unit fire in Browns Plains. Picture: Brad Fleet
Police and firefighters at the scene of a unit fire in Browns Plains. Picture: Brad Fleet

Nikita Rush, who lives inside the complex, said she heard "an explosion" before the heat of the fire infiltrated the street.

Miss Rush said she was sleeping before a loud bang woke her. She said she wasn't aware anyone was inside.

Kyle Bradford, who also lives nearby, said he was woken to sirens and lights about 3:20am.

"I looked out the window, I saw a big flame shooting through the sky," he said.

"The whole house was on fire and the flames were coming come through the roof.

"I saw an ambulance here but they didn't pull anyone out and no one got taken away on the stretcher."

Firefighters at the scene. Picture: Brad Fleet
Firefighters at the scene. Picture: Brad Fleet

Detectives from the homicide squad attended the scene Monday morning as PolAir hovered closely above the fully destroyed property.

Three Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews attended the unit block on Myola Street in Browns Plains at 4am. They managed to control the blaze within 30 minutes.

Police have declared a crime scene at the unit fire. Picture: Brad Fleet
Police have declared a crime scene at the unit fire. Picture: Brad Fleet

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