A LOVING couple were found dead when a blaze ripped through their Sussex farmhouse hours after they had wished their family a happy Christmas just hours earlier.
The bodies of Frank and Madeleine Dougharty, 90 and 86, were found along with their pet dog Flash on Boxing Day morning.
Their £760,000 farmhouse in West Chiltington, West Sussex, was gutted by the blaze.
It is believed the fire started on Christmas Day but emergency services were called out shortly after 9am on Saturday.
Detectives and the fire service are working to establish if the fire was suspicious. The cause is not yet known.
Frank was born on the family-run farm in the rural village and was described as "very active" by neighbours.
The grandparents, who have four children, farmed hay and previously turkeys at the site.
Kenneth Taylor, their 64-year-old daughter Ailsa's husband, said last night at his home in Lincoln: “It is a great shock. We were only speaking to them on Christmas."
He said Frank had health issues and had been supported by carers.
Kenneth added: “Me and my wife hadn't seen them since September and I think they had since moved into Tier 4.
“They were elderly and lived alone and Frank, who had health issues, had had a number of carers. Frank had just turned 90 in November.
“Three other siblings live very close and had formed a family bubble.“
Local Suzie Coe, 50, said: "We used to buy our hay from them.
"It's just an absolute tragedy. We knew them for 20 years. They were proper farmers, proper country folk.
"They were the heart of the community. I feel so sad for their children."
The staircase, ceiling and roof were destroyed by the inferno. The property is at the end of a long driveway and cannot be seen from the public road.
An investigation has been launched into what started the blaze.
A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Emergency services received a report of a significant fire at a residential property in Harbolets Road, West Chiltington, at 9.10am on Saturday.
“Fire engines from the local area arrived quickly at the scene, and a section of the road has been closed as emergency services continue to work together.
“Two people have sadly been confirmed deceased at the scene.”
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