Inquest hears how Ulverston man lay dead for four days after fire in his flat

AN ULVERSTON father-of-three lay dead for four days after becoming overcome by smoke following a fire in his one-bedroom flat, an inquest heard today.

Barry Atkinson, 35, was found by detectives at his Beckside Road home on June 20 last year.

However, an inquest into his death was told that a neighbour had heard a smoke alarm sound on June 16.

The hearing at Barrow Town Hall was told that after knocking on Mr Atkinson’s door to no answer, she failed to contact the emergency services.

Detective Constable Ben Falvey, of Barrow CID, told the hearing that police went to the flat after the probation service raised concerns that he had missed a court appearance.

He also said that Mr Atkinson had not been to collect his prescription from Unity, a drug and alcohol recovery service, for three days.

“When we arrived we forced entry and found Mr Atkinson sat on the floor of the living room with his back against the wall,” he said.

Toxicology reports found that Mr Atkinson had 63 per cent of carbon monoxide in his blood as well as a host of drugs including amphetamine, diazapan and methadone.

He also had 180mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - the legal drink drive limit is 80mg.

Fire officers also found ruptured aerosol cans, discarded cigarettes and matches inside the social housing flat.

Fire investigator Alan Maguire said there was evidence of ‘carelessly discarded smoking materials’ in the flat as well as damage to the ceiling near the smoke alarm.

He said investigations had concluded that the fire had started in the doorway to the living room - and the most likely cause was the distribution of cigarette ends.

“His exit was blocked. The natural instinct would be to go towards the light,” he said.

“It looks like he tried to open the window because there was soot there.

“There were also indents on the ceiling near the alarm which suggests he attempted to silence it by hitting it with an object.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Ian Smith, coroner for south and east Cumbria, said: “The combined effect of alcohol and drugs would have made him sleepy, perhaps unconscious to some extent.

“He was asleep and the alarm disturbed him. I think he hit it with something and possibly went back to sleep.

“Later the fire took hold, he woke up and went to the window but couldn’t get out.

“The neighbour should have rung the fire brigade. It would have been preferable to go to a false alarm than not to go out to a genuine fire.

“That did not happen and it looks like he died four days before he was actually found.”

Speaking after the inquest, sister Jacqueline Atkinson said her brother had a ‘heart of gold and had a few problems he spent his life battling’.

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