A HOUSE fire in Darlington which led to the death of a seven-year-old girl is still being investigated by police, nearly 11 months on.

The community in Skerne Park was left 'shocked and saddened' over the death of the little girl, who was never officially named by the police but was named locally as Lily.

Fire tore through a house in Esk Road, Darlington, on December 1 last year, trapping the little girl inside.

Despite the frantic efforts of neighbours to save her, they were pushed back by the thick black smoke. Lily was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle but died four days after the fire.

A 16-year-old was initially arrested on suspicion of arson but later released.

Police and fire investigators initially treated the blaze as arson, but later said early investigations had indicated it was not necessarily a deliberate act.

A spokeswoman for Durham Constabulary told The Northern Echo that the investigation into the blaze 'remains ongoing'.

Lily, a pupil at Skerne Park Academy, was described as being a 'lovely girl' who was popular among children and staff.

Others described her as a 'really funny girl' who made the other pupils laugh.

Neighbours told at the time how one person crawled through acrid smoke to try to reach her, but was overwhelmed. They said they were all frantically calling to the girl as fire raged through the council property but received no response.

A family friend and Lily's younger brother escaped the blaze.