Lit cigarette falling on to sofa may have caused fire which killed woman near King’s Lynn

The aftermath of a bungalow fire on Cecil Close in Watlington. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The aftermath of a bungalow fire on Cecil Close in Watlington. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A fire at a bungalow in which a 59-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries was probably caused by a lit cigarette being dropped onto a sofa, an inquest heard.

Firefighters found Deborah Skipper lying unconscious inside her blazing bungalow in Cecil Close, Watlington, near King's Lynn, on July 2 last year.

She was dragged from the building and taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, where she died the next day.

An inquest at King's Lynn coroners' court heard yesterday that Mrs Skipper, a mother of two, was a heavy smoker.

Fire station manager Duncan Ashworth, who investigated the blaze, said: 'Crews from King's Lynn, Downham Market and Terrington St Clement attended. 'There was extensive damage to the property, especially in the living room. The fire also spread to the roof.

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'Turbulence from a fan that had been moved to the living room might have made the fire burn stronger.

'The likeliest cause of the fire was a lit cigarette being dropped onto a sofa where Mrs Skipper was sitting, and the fire spreading from there.'

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Assistant coroner for Norfolk, David Osborne's conclusion was accidental death.

Emergency services were called to the bungalow at about 3.30pm on July 2. Neighbour Marcus Cox had seen smoke coming from the bungalow and alerted Mrs Skipper's daughter, Gemma Skipper who lived nearby. They ran to the bungalow and saw flames coming out of the lounge window.

They called emergency services but it was too late to get inside.

The inquest was told that Mrs Skipper was an alcoholic who smoked 30 cigarettes a day and had been prescribed medication for depression.

Gemma Skipper had seen her mother that day and she had also been visited by a friend, Eileen Turner.

The cause of death was given as smoke inhalation and extensive burns, as a result of a house fire.

Mrs Skipper's husband, Keith Skipper said afterwards: 'She was a fantastic wife to me and mother to her son and daughter. She is sadly missed.'

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