Elderly man who smoked while drunk died in house fire

More than 20 firefighters tackled the fire in Orpington.

More than 20 firefighters tackled the fire in Orpington. - Credit: sub

An elderly man suffered severe burns and died in a fire at his home after he had been smoking while drunk, a coroner has ruled.

John Sands, 71, who lived alone in Parkhill Road, Belsize Park, was found dead by firefighters on May 7 just after 8.30pm.

A student living next door, who saw smoke coming from his garden, alerted monks living at nearby St Dominic’s Priory, Southampton Road, but they said he was probably just having a barbecue.

When he told his parents, who had a spare key for Mr Sands’s house, they went round to check and saw flames in the ground-floor living room.

The student ran round to the back of the house and smashed a window to look for Mr Sands but saw that he was already dead and was lying in the living room.

The court heard that Mr Sands drank and smoked heavily.

Although there was a smoke alarm in the house, there was no battery inside it and firefighters also found old burn marks on the carpet and kitchen table where Mr Sands had carelessly discarded lit tobacco on previous occasions.

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Deputy coroner William Dolman recorded a verdict of accidental death, caused by severe burns, at Poplar Coroner’s Court on Monday.