Actress Lysette Anthony pays tribute after her mother dies in Sheringham fire
PUBLISHED: 11:09 23 July 2013 | UPDATED: 11:09 23 July 2013
Actress Lysette Anthony attended an inquest in Norwich where she paid an emotional tribute to her "beautiful" mother whose body was found in her Norfolk home following a fire.
Former actress and producer Bernadette Bennett, who appeared in more than 50 films and TV series and whose professional name was Milnes, was pronounced dead at her home in Beeston Road, Sheringham, on December 15 last year.
An inquest into her death in Norwich heard the 82-year-old, who had a long history of mental health problems, had lived in Norfolk for about 10 years and was last seen by her daughter a couple of weeks before she died.
Giving evidence, the TV and theatre actress, who has appeared in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, ITV’s Auf Wiedersehen Pet and BBC sitcom Three Up, Two Down, said: “She was probably one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. She was so loving and so compassionate and so beautiful.
“The actor’s life is a tough one and there were times when we were very, very poor and she did everything she could.
“She worked at Harrods just to give me everything she could. I’m just really proud to be her daughter.”
The inquest heard Mrs Bennett had been smoking between about 40 and 60 cigarettes a day in the weeks leading up to her death and was said to be careless in discarding bits of card or tapers that she used to light cigarettes, resulting in several scorch marks on both carpet and on her clothing.
Her body was discovered in the lounge of her home shortly before 4pm by taxi driver Gavin Dickson who, with his wife Julie, had become firm friends.
An investigation by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service found there was no electrical fault and that the most likely cause was from an open flame, cigarette or taper that set fire to her clothing.
Pathologist Dr Wayne Kinsey who conducted the post-mortem examination, discovered Mrs Bennett suffered from heart disease but found no significant levels of carbon monoxide or of smoke inhalation.
He concluded there were three possible scenarios which led to her death with the most likely being that she suffered a cardiac event and collapsed and died while holding a lit taper or cigarette, which then ignited her clothing.
Recording a narrative verdict, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said: “Bernadette Bennett was found dead after a house fire at her home which had been started by her accidentally and without the intention of causing harm to herself.
“It is more likely than not that she died from a cardiac event in the context of underlying natural heart disease and not from the effects of the fire.
“No third party was involved in the death.”