• Thomas Sharkey had U.S. scholarship at top university
  • Sister had returned home from sleepover because she missed her family
  • Police say fire which left parents seriously injured was a 'deliberate act'
Tragedy: Thomas Sharkey, 21, and his eight-year-old sister Bridget, who were killed in a house fire in Helensburgh, near Glasgow. Police have now launched a murder investigation

These are the first pictures of talented golfer Thomas Sharkey, 21, and his eight-year-old sister Bridget, who were killed in a house fire.

Police believe the blaze was started deliberately and have now launched a murder investigation into the siblings' deaths.

Their parents Angela, 46, and Tommy, 55, managed to escape the fire in Helensburgh, near Glasgow, after an off-duty policeman raised the alarm.

They were both being treated in hospital for serious injuries.

Eight-year-old Bridget is believed to have died after coming home from a planned sleepover because she missed her parents.

The heat of the blaze caused a downstairs window to explode and left an area of severe scorching around the front door of the property in Scott Court.

Thomas was in the country after returning from the U.S. where he has a Golfing Scholarship at Georgia Southern University.

Parish priest Father Peter Lennon, of St Joseph's Church in Helensburgh, said: 'It is dreadful. The wee girl was an absolute gem, the boy I didn't know as well because he was in America on this scholarship.

'She made her first Communion in May. She was like the other girls, when they were out playing she always had good fun.

'I didn't know the parents very well, but they came to church and were a good family.
Tragic: Police and fire crews at the scene of the fire in Helensburgh, near Glasgow where Thomas Sharkey and his sister Bridget died

'I have spoken to their relatives. They are just shocked.'

Father Lennon said he told his congregation yesterday morning.

He said: 'There was a deadly silence when I announced it. Most of them knew there had been a fire and most of them knew who had been involved, but to hear of the deaths was devastating. There was just silence.'

Thomas Sharkey won a golf scholarship to Georgia Southern University in the U.S. after leaving Our Lady and Saint Patrick's High in Dumbarton in 2008.

In his biography on the Georgia Southern Eagles website, he described himself as 'ambitious and competitive', adding that his grandfather and father were the biggest influence on his athletics career for teaching him golf.
Closed off: Police conduct investigations in the area near the fatal flat fire

Yesterday police cordoned off three streets following the fierce fire which started shortly after 5am.

Thomas Sharkey was pronounced dead at the scene while his young sister died a short while later after being rushed to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Strathclyde Police Area Commander, Chief Inspector Fergus Byrne, said a murder investigation had been launched.

'Extensive inquiries have been ongoing all day at the scene, including a full crime scene forensic investigation by forensic scientists, fire service and Strathclyde Police,' he said.

'This investigation is continuing, however, we believe that this fire was started intentionally and the deaths are now being treated as murder.'
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Forensic investigation: A police officer stands guard near the property where the pair died

Police said that post-mortem examinations will be carried out in due course to establish the exact cause of death but that the deaths are being treated as murder.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Anne McKerchar said: 'This is a tragic event made worse by the fact that it was a deliberate act.'

One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "They had lived there a few years and were a nice normal family. It is terrible. It makes any problems the rest of us might have seem insignificant.'

A police helicopter was brought in to take aerial photographs while officers continued their investigations.