Norfolk dad left ‘devastated’ after thieves steal locks of hair of two children who died in a house fire

Phil Ellis, chef at Station Bistro at Wymondham, at his home Station House next to the Bistro, after being burgled and a book with locks of hair, and moulds of the hand and footprints of his deceased children were stolen. Picture: Denise Bradley Phil Ellis, chef at Station Bistro at Wymondham, at his home Station House next to the Bistro, after being burgled and a book with locks of hair, and moulds of the hand and footprints of his deceased children were stolen. Picture: Denise Bradley

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
12:39 PM

A dad who went through the heartbreak of losing both his children in a flat fire twelve years ago has told of how he has never stopped thinking about them.

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Phil Ellis, chef at Station Bistro at Wymondham, at his home Station House next to the Bistro, after being burgled and a book with locks of hair, and moulds of the hand and footprints of his deceased children were stolen. Picture: Denise BradleyPhil Ellis, chef at Station Bistro at Wymondham, at his home Station House next to the Bistro, after being burgled and a book with locks of hair, and moulds of the hand and footprints of his deceased children were stolen. Picture: Denise Bradley

A dad who went through the heartbreak of losing both his children in a flat fire twelve years ago has told of how he has never stopped thinking about them.

34-year-old Phil Ellis, who lives in Wymondham, said that although he has managed to come to terms with the tragedy which took Jordan, 5, and Shania, 3, in 2002, they are always at the forefront of his mind.

“I always think about them. I have got over everything that happened but I think about them all the time and remember what they were like and their little mannerisms and the naughty things they did,” he said.

Mr Ellis breaks his silence on the day that a house fire in Sheffield killed two young children and a nine-week-old baby.

Station House at Wymondham Railway Station. Picture: Denise BradleyStation House at Wymondham Railway Station. Picture: Denise Bradley

“It doesn’t matter what anyone says to that poor family. I didn’t listen to anyone – I never thought it would get easier. I have to try and remember them as they were,” he said.

Police believe that the fire was started accidentally in the bedroom of Mr Ellis’ Birmingham flat – and could have been caused by a heartbreaking set of circumstances.

“Jordan had a bit of a fixation with lighters when he was young, so we hid them all away or didn’t have very many in the house,” he said.

“We went on holiday for a week and a friend looked after the house. She moved the lighters around. When we got back, as kids do, my son was trying to play with it. As it was the bedroom - it just went up”.

At around 8.30am Mr Ellis woke up to his partner screaming and was faced with a “wall of thick, black smoke”.

“As it was a second floor flat, you couldn’t go out of the window. You had to go down a hallway to get out,” Mr Ellis said.

Fire crews at the scene initially thought the children had died of smoke inhalation, but managed to resuscitate them and take them to hospital.

Tragically, both died within hours of each other the next day.

For the next few years, the devoted dad struggled to keep his head above water.

“To be honest, we didn’t really cope. I took an overdose to the point where they didn’t think I was going survive about two months after the kids died. After that, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I was in and out of jobs and never felt like I could settle,” he said.

Even the birth of a daughter couldn’t bring Mr Ellis peace – instead, he found himself struggling to cope with the pressure of making sure she was safe.

“I was always edgy and I was double checking and triple checking she was alright,” he said. “It was to the point where it became stressful for me and her mum. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything and to try and explain that to someone else was very hard.”

It was only after his brother asked him to visit to Norfolk for a few days three years ago that the darkness started to lift for Mr Ellis.

“When I came to Norfolk I liked it here. I thought about it and I went back and packed my clothes and moved down here. It was a fresh start in a fresh area with no old faces or memories.”

As the fire destroyed most of the photos of the children, Mr Ellis has to rely on memories.

He said: “I always think about them, you never forget. Me and their mum still talk about the little things and how long it would have been. It does help.”

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