December 10 2013 Latest news:
By Amie Keeley
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
An inquest into the death of an elderly terminally ill woman who died in her council flat after a fire has heard there were no smoke alarms fitted in her property.
Valerie Willis, 74, was found dead in bed at her ground floor flat in Countess Street, Kentish Town, after firefighters were called to the property just after 2pm on April 18.
An inquest was opened yesterday but had to be adjourned to allow further inquiries to be made with Camden Council about why smoke alarms had not been installed.
The court heard how Ms Willis, who was a smoker, had become frail, relying on others to support her.
Following her death, family in Liverpool said the pensioner had been battling breast cancer for some time before discovering the illness was terminal.
Watch manager at Dowgate Fire Station, Matthew Cullen, gave evidence during the brief hearing at St Pancras Coroner’s Court.
He said on arrival fire fighters saw smoke billowing out from the door and forced entry in to the flat. They began fighting the flames before discovering Ms Willis on her bed in her nightdress.
Mr Cullen said no smoke alarms were found in the property, prompting deputy coroner Selena Lynch to adjourn the hearing until Camden Council had been consulted about the matter.
After the hearing was adjourned, the local authority said it does not fit smoke detectors for council tenants but strongly recommends they take advantage of free home visits and alarms from the fire brigade.