Pensioner who died in Mile Cross house fire had a “difficult” life after being injured by an incendiary device as a boy

Andrew Dunthorne, who died in a house fire in Penn Grove on Thursday, drinking at the Magpie Pub on

Andrew Dunthorne, who died in a house fire in Penn Grove on Thursday, drinking at the Magpie Pub on Magpie Road. Left to right: Arthur Woods, Magpie pub landlord Ernie, Andrew Dunthorne, Tony Brown, and Colin Dunthorne. Taken circa 1966. - Credit: Tony Brown

Andrew Dunthorne, who died in a fire at his home in Penn Grove last week, had lived a difficult life after an incendiary device exploded in his face as a young boy.

The home on Penn Grove where 73-year-old Andrew Dunthorne died in a fire

The home on Penn Grove where 73-year-old Andrew Dunthorne died in a fire - Credit: Archant

The 73-year-old had no working smoke alarms in the house he lived at alone following the deaths of his mother, Joyce, and brother, Colin.

He was not alerted when an electrical fire broke out in the early hours of Thursday morning, and despite the efforts of firefighters and paramedics, he could not be saved.

Mr Dunthorne's eldest cousin Tony Neve, 73, said his side of the family had lost contact with the Dunthornes when they were teenagers, but remembers an incident on Mousehold Heath which had left Andrew scarred for life and speaking with a stammer.

'We spent our first five years living in a two up two down terrace on Hooper Lane,' he said. 'We were number nine and Andrew's family were number one. Even as eight-year-olds every Sunday we would be out playing with Andrew. 'He had a bad experience once playing out near Mousehold because there were still incendiary devices over there. The kids used to go over there to get involved with various things and one day Andrew made the mistake of picking up this incendiary device. 'He tried to explode it by throwing it towards something hard but it blew up in his face. Ever since then his face was pock marked with scars. That made him very withdrawn.'

Family friend Tony Brown, 79, said he had 'adopted' Mr Dunthorne after the death of his brother, Colin, who had been in his year at the Alderman Jex school.

'He was very different from his brother,' he said. 'They were latchkey children, with a very hard working mother, and grew up in poverty. I have never seen a front room completely empty until I went to visit them. They had absolutely nothing, but their mother was devoted to them.'

Mr Brown would go drinking with the Dunthorne brothers at the Magpie Pub and were regulars in the Norwich pub scene. 'We would all go out together and Andrew was glad of the company,' he said. 'He was very clever, and he had a vast knowledge of things. 'When I heard there was a fire in Penn Grove the first person I thought of was Andrew. 'I will remember his sense of humour. Whatever adversity he was given he would always come back from it.'

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Fire safety officers issued a warning following the fire, which had been burning for more than an hour by the time the alarm was raised.

Garry Collins, head of prevention and protection at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: 'The mitigating factors to help ourselves and everyone in the household is having a fitted, working smoke alarm, a maintenance system that will test that alarm, and knowing what to do when that alarm actuates,' added Mr Collins. 'The right thing to do is have an escape plan where everyone gets out and stays out. Do not go back in for pets, clothing, valuables, wallets or mobile phones.

'People are not replaceable but are the most valuable asset in the property. For me this is a call to action - if you know anyone who is vulnerable, come to us and we can provide a free fire safety check. 'It is a tragic consequence that fire is devastating and does not discriminate. If it is left unchecked it will destroy everything in your home, including the people in it. 'The reality in this case is the cause is irrelevant. An accidental dwelling fire can happen to anyone at any time. The important bit is we prepare.'

For a free home fire safety check contact Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service on 0300 123 1669 or hq@fire.norfolk.gov.uk. Alternatively visit www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk.

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