Fatal Norfolk house blaze ‘caused by cigarette’

A coroner has warned of the dangers of falling asleep while smoking, following the death of a pensioner in a house fire.

Neighbours of Kathleen Sillett, 85, tried to get into her home to rescue her, but had to turn back because of the thick, black smoke, the inquest into her death heard. Firefighters managed to get into the house in Church Lane, Old Buckenham, but Mrs Sillett died in the early hours at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital the following day, Thursday, February 17.

At the inquest, at the Assembly House in Norwich, neighbour Pamela Monk told how she and her husband smelled smoke while getting ready for bed.

She said: 'I opened the window to check if there was a bonfire but I couldn't smell one, although I could hear a very faint noise like a smoke alarm.

'With the smoke in my mind I put a glass to the wall to see if I could hear Kathy and it was all quiet, but suddenly I heard two noises like the sound of a picture falling down.' They rushed next door and called the fire brigade when they saw black smoke coming from the chimney.

Mrs Monk said her husband opened the door, but could not go in because of the smoke.

She said: 'The fire brigade came not long after that. It was only minutes, but it seemed like long minutes because we knew she was in there and we couldn't do anything.'

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Fire investigator Ray Harcourt, said the most likely cause of the fire was either a dropped match or cigarette.

A post mortem examination found Mr Sillett died of carbon monoxide inhalation and burns.

Deputy Norfolk coroner Jaqueline Lake recorded a verdict of accidental death and thanked the actions of Mr and Mrs Monk. She said: 'This tragic incident does highlight the dangers of falling asleep while smoking.'

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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