Police car in Northern Ireland© Rex Features

A body, believed to be that of an elderly farmer, has been recovered after a fire gutted a Northern Ireland farmhouse.

Farmer George Mathers, 82, had been missing since flames engulfed his home in Ballynafern Road, Ballynaskeagh near Banbridge, County Down.

Rescue teams had delayed entering the farmhouse due to safety concerns after a “ferocious” fire destroyed the building.

The first floor of the farmhouse collapsed as the flames swept through the property in the early hours of Saturday (3 January).

See also: Missing farmer feared dead after house fire

But following an examination of the fire scene, rescue teams entered the home on Monday (5 January) to recover a body.

Police Service Northern Ireland inspector Nigel Graham said: “Police can confirm that the body of a man has been recovered from the property. 

“The cause of the fire is still being investigated but is not believed to be suspicious at this time.

“Our thoughts are with the family at this most difficult time.”

It is understood that Mr Mathers had mobility issues, used a wheelchair, and lived on his own.

John McAllister, an Independent Unionist Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, described Mr Mathers as a “hard-working farmer”, who had been “in declining health for the past few years”.