Tributes paid to mother and two children killed in house fire as pal says seriously ill dad's 'world has been taken away'

Gavin Collison, 34, was pulled alive from the inferno which killed Justine, 33, and their daughter Isabella, eight.

Son Harvey, five, died in hospital a few hours later. It was unclear last night if former RAF engineer Gavin had been told — as friends and neighbours paid tribute to the “perfect” family.

Police and firefighters, meanwhile, were mounting a joint investigation into the cause of Saturday’s 7am blaze — which Justine’s mum Diane Fletcher escaped unhurt.

Witnesses told how 25ft flames roared from the family’s conservatory in Collingham, Notts.

Neighbour Paul Norton, 57, said he and his son, another neighbour and a van driver who stopped to help tried in vain to rouse the family.

He said: “I woke early and looked out a window. There was a huge amount of light. It was as if the sun was shining right through but this was very early.

“I could see the conservatory was on fire. The flames were huge and there was a lot of smoke.

"We knew there were people inside because the cars were on the drive.

"We banged on the door and yelled through the letterbox trying to rouse someone.

“We were shouting ‘Get out, get out’. We got nothing back. There was just silence. We had no idea what was going on inside the house.

“We tried to kick in the front door but it was too heavy.

“We went round the back to see if we could get in but it was locked.

“We were doing all we could. It was desperate. When the fire brigade arrived the gran was taken out of the house by the firefighters.

"She seemed very dazed. But I didn’t see anybody else come out.”

Three fire crews tackled the blaze, which destroyed the conservatory. Plywood boards were put up around the gutted extension yesterday and a green tarpaulin draped over the top.

Meanwhile, Gavin’s parents, Adrian and Judy Collison, sat with him by his hospital bedside.

His father-in-law and 53-year-old Diane’s former husband, ­Gerald Sandford, 57, travelled up from Devon to be with him as friends and neighbours tried to come to terms with the tragedy.

Cath Hardy, 58, who worked with special needs teaching assistant Justine, said: “She was always smiling.

“You could not wish to meet a nicer woman. She was always talking about her children.

“She was so proud of them. She idolised them.

“I last saw her on Friday. It was her first day back after she’d been off ill. It was Christmas jumper day and she was wearing hers. She was smiling and happy. It was lovely to see.”

She added: “I feel desperately sorry for Gavin. He’s lost his wife and two children.

“His world has been taken away from him.”

Neighbour Rachael Walker, 48, who taught Harvey at pre-school, added: “It’s heartbreaking. They were just the perfect family.

“Harvey was a lovely little boy. He was jolly, easy-going and full of life. He was a very bright little boy.

"Gavin is a very nice man. His kids meant everything to him.”

Another neighbour said Justine was “a lovely girl and a great mum”. The neighbour added: “It’s impossible to put into words how Gav must be feeling.

“He lived for her and the kids. They were well liked. They came over as a close, happy family.”

Justine’s friend Bethan Germon wrote on Facebook. “You never know when your last breath will be. My head is blown my heart is heavy.

"Devastated for all the family that I grew up with that treasured her and her children.”

Neighbour and friend Wayne Walker, 39, added: “They were a lovely couple — bubbly, outgoing and good parents.

“When it’s across the road and it’s your friends and their kids, it’s a big shock.”

Another family friend, Hannah Giles Knopp, 27, who had a text from Justine on the day before the fire, said: “It’s the worst possible thing to happen. What can you say? It’s devastating.”

Neighbours of Diane, who had travelled up from Torquay for an early Christmas visit, said they were devastated.

One said: “Your heart goes out to her. To lose her daughter and grandchildren in these circumstances is so dreadful.”

Police confirmed five people were taken from the home.

Area Chief Inspector Rich Stapleford said that an eight-year-old girl and a woman aged 33 had died following the blaze.

He added: “Tragically, a boy, five, who was rescued from the house and taken to hospital has since died.

"A 34-year-old man remains in hospital with serious injuries.

“Collingham is a very close-knit community and this includes some of the fire crews who responded.

“This news will hit the village very hard. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends and the community at this difficult time.”

There was speculation locally that a faulty Christmas light may have sparked the blaze.

A police spokesman said: “The fire investigation has not yet reached a conclusion, however all possibilities will be considered.”

All Saints Church, less than a mile away from the scene of the fire, will open during the day from now until Christmas Day for people to remember the family.

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