UPDATE: Fernhurst man ‘assaulted’ before death in house fire

A MAN whose body was found in a burning house in Fernhurst had been seriously assaulted before his death.

Saturday, 26th January 2013, 11:30 am

Michael Griffiths, 59, was found by firefighters who were called to his home in Old Glebe on Thursday morning (January 24). A post mortem carried out by a home office pathologist on Friday has not yet established the cause of death and further tests are being carried out.

Detectives from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team are conducting a murder enquiry and believe Mr Griffiths may have been specifically targeted.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Riley, who is leading the enquiry, said: “On Thursday evening, fire investigators advised us that they were suspicious of a seat of fire close to a lounge window at the rear of the house. Smoke patterns on a couple of the windows suggest that they were open when the fire broke out.

“The post mortem has revealed Mr Griffiths suffered serious injuries to his head and body, but at this stage it is not possible to firmly conclude that they were the cause of his death. Tests are now being carried out to establish how he died.

“Michael was a well-known and popular local man who was a talented jewellery designer and maker and was an enthusiastic antiques buyer and seller. I am considering that this may have led to he or at least his home, being specifically targeted and this forms one of our main lines of enquiry at this time.

“There is no doubt that we are dealing with a murder and I would appeal to everyone in Fernhurst’s close-knit community to think about anything suspicious or just out of the ordinary in the days leading up to the fire and especially the time between 6.30 and 8am on Thursday morning, to give us a call.

“Were you walking, driving or working in the area and saw people who you didn’t know or unfamiliar vehicles, maybe parked up? We’d like to hear from anyone, no matter how insignificant you may think your information is. Please call Sussex Police on 101 quoting Operation Killick or talk to one of our officers in the area.

“We do know that Michael had a couple of callers around 8.25pm on Tuesday evening (January 22) who threw snowballs when he answered from an upstairs window. This may well have been an innocent prank, but we would also like to hear from them or anyone else who experienced a similar thing.

“Scenes of crime officers and forensic investigators are now examining the house closely and will continue to do so for a few days. Their task is not made any easier by the damage caused by the fire and some of the upstairs areas need to be made safe before they are able to carry out their work.

“Someone, somewhere has vital information that will lead us to Michael’s killer. Please call.”