Investigation continues after Norfolk golf club founder dies in fire at the complex

The founder of a golf club died in a 'tragic accident' after a blaze broke out in his home at the complex, fire investigators believe.

The fire broke out just before noon on Wednesday at the single-storey wooden lodge at Richmond Park Golf Club in Saham Road, Watton. where Richard Jessup, known as Dick, had lived for seven years since being struck by a debilitating illness.

A Norfolk fire service spokesman said: 'Investigations are continuing but we can confirm the fire was not suspicious. It appears to be a tragic accident.'

The investigation is being carried out by the fire service and Norfolk police.

Mr Jessup's older brother David said the 66 year old's carer had called in sick earlier that morning, but Mr Jessup was well when he saw him about an hour before the fire.

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He said: 'My wife got a call from one of the golf club members saying the golf club was on fire. I tore down here. When I arrived there were fire engines, ambulances and a helicopter just everywhere.

'I could not go in. It was quite obvious from the outside that it was serious, and in no time we were told he had perished.

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'I can't think of anything worse than dying in a fire, but I have been assured by a firefighter that a couple of puffs [of smoke] can knock you out.'

He said Mr Jessup's son Simon, 39, and a barman at the club tried to rescue him, but were beaten back by smoke.

One 64-year-old Watton man was flown by air ambulance to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, while another was driven there for observations.

David Jessup said his brother was an occasional smoker, but was under strict instructions not to smoke when he was on his own.

Fire crews from Watton, Dereham and Hingham were called to the golf club at 11.56am, and used main jets, reel jets and breathing apparatus to tackle the fire, which was described as 'well alight' when they arrived. The incident was delcared over at 2.08pm.

A spokesman said they had started an investigation into the cause, but said it could take some time.

Mr Jessup, who was born and lived his life in Watton, sold his business Aspect Roofing to create the Richmond Park Golf Club from scratch about 20 years ago, and had been an active football player,

However, his brother said in recent years his poor health meant he had to be hoisted in and out of his chair.

He said: 'He has had this illness coming on for some time. I have always thought how well he has coped with it considering what a life outside he had before. He was such a fit sportsman.'

Mr Jessup's eldest son Stephen, 40, lives in Australia.

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