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Man's Inquest Gets Underway After Fatal Fire

Thursday November 7 2013




A MAN who drank up to a bottle of vodka a day may not have realised his house was on fire, an inquest into his death was told.

When Leslie Stuart Robinson, 66, died in his Woodhall Road home on March 26, he was three times over the drink-drive limit, according to pathologist, Dr Naomi Carter.

She said Mr Robinson's high blood alcohol level most likely impaired his ability both to realise a fire had started and, once it had taken hold, to escape.

Neighbour Zoe Barnes made a daring attempt to rescue Mr Robinson, kicking down the back door and, when she was unable to find him, smashing the glass of the front door to see if there were any keys.

She said he had 'never been the same' since the death of his brother who he lived with and had steadily deteriorated, developing an alcohol problem and drinking throughout the day.

Fire investigator and officer Andy Strelczenie told the court it was his opinion that the fire most likely started after some of Mr Robinson's clothes, which may have been drying due to there being snow on the ground that day, were ignited by the gas fire.

He said he believed the clothes may have subsequently ignited a sofa, which didn't meet fire regulations because of its age, meaning the fire quickly spread around the house.

He said the fire was so ferocious, with flames stretching from the floor to the ceiling, that nothing remained of the sofa but its springs. The walls were reduced to bare brick.

He said: "I haven't come across a fire like this for many years, partly due to new construction techniques and partly because furniture fire regulations are far superior to what they used to be."

He said firefighters had to crawl around on the floor to find Mr Robinson's body, which was by that time badly charred and needing extensive forensic investigation to confirm his identity.

Assistant coroner Sarah Louise Slater concluded Mr Robinson had died as a result of an accident and was satisfied the cause of death was smoke inhalation, with alcohol intoxication and coronary atheroma (accumulation and swelling in artery walls) as contrubuting factors.

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