Tragic boy died in blaze, inquest hears

A schoolboy killed in a blaze at his Norfolk home died as a result of his own fascination with fire, an inquest heard yesterday.Timmy McLean died of smoke inhalation after suffering severe burns in the fire at his home in St John's Way, Thetford.

A schoolboy killed in a blaze at his Norfolk home died as a result of his own fascination with fire, an inquest heard yesterday.

Timmy McLean died of smoke inhalation after suffering severe burns in the fire at his home in St John's Way, Thetford.

It is believed the five-year-old started the fire himself as he played with a cigarette lighter.

The inquest held at the Assembly House in Norwich into the tragic accident last August heard that Timmy had learning difficulties and problems with hyperactivity.

He would often pick up lighters discarded in the street and had been known to set fire to pieces of paper. He took an enthusiastic interest in the fire service and his favourite toy was a fireman's helmet.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong said his parents, Melanie Brunec and Andrew McLean, were aware of the problem and did everything they could to discourage him and to keep him away from lighters and matches.

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Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Armstrong said: “Timothy did have certain difficulties which made managing and caring for him a challenge to his parents. This was not his fault or their fault but he did need a high standard of care.

“Although the couple were separated, Melanie was doing all she could to care for him and Andrew made every effort to support her.

“In his circumstances and his situation, he would have been completely oblivious to the potential danger of what he was doing.”

Earlier, the inquest heard that Timmy, who was seeing a specialist for his condition, had woken at about 6am, as was his habit. He had played as Miss Brunec did housework.

At about 8am she heard him shouting and ran upstairs to see what was wrong.

She said: “He was shouting, 'Mummy, mummy', and I could see smoke half way down the stairs.

“I looked into the bedroom and all I could see was flames by the door. He was still shouting for me.

“I filled up his toy box with water and tried to put out the fire but it didn't do any good.

“Suddenly he went quiet.”

She rushed outside and a neighbour called the fire service.

Other neighbours joined together to use a garden hose in a futile attempt to fight the flames and Mr McLean rushed to the scene from his nearby home in an attempt to save his son.

Mr McLean said: “By the time I got there, the fire service had arrived and they stopped me going inside.

“I knew he was trapped and I

just wanted to get in there to get him out.”

Forensic scientist Justin Lewis told the inquest the fire had developed rapidly.

He said smoke detectors were fitted but were not in working order.

“Had they been fitted with working batteries, his mother may have been alerted to the fire at an earlier stage,” he added.

Outside the inquest, Miss Brunec and Mr McLean thanked the police, fire service, friends, family and all those who tried to save Timmy.

They described him as their “angel”, adding that the Redcastle Furze pupil was sorely missed by themselves and his sisters, Faith and Chloe.