Bury St Edmunds: A cigarette probably caused the Langton Place fire which claimed Katherine Douglas’s life, inquest hears

The scene of the flat fire in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds. The scene of the flat fire in Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds.

Mariam Ghaemi mariam.ghaemi@archant.co.uk
Thursday, December 5, 2013
7:25 PM

A 55-year-old woman was severely intoxicated with alcohol when a fire – probably caused by a cigarette – began at her flat, claiming her life.

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Today an inquest took place for Katherine Douglas, of Langton Place, Bury St Edmunds, who died at West Suffolk Hospital on May 14 this year following a blaze at her home the previous day.

The inquest heard her blood alcohol level had been 381mg per 100ml – which was such a high concentration that a coma may occur.

Recording a narrative verdict, assistant coroner Dr Dan Sharpstone said: “The death was accidental due to burns and smoke inhalation from a fire probably caused by a cigarette igniting a sofa and the death was associated with severe alcohol intoxication.”

The inquest heard she had not lived with her husband Michael and their four children since 2010 and the couple were getting a divorce.

In a letter Mr Douglas spoke of Mrs Douglas’s alcohol dependency, adding she began a residential course at the Focus12 charity, based in Bury, but she was unable to complete it. The inquest heard she struggled with her alcohol addiction in 2011 and 2012 and had begun smoking again.

Fire investigation officer Ken Williamson said there was heat and smoke damage throughout the flat, but the most likely origin of the fire was at the rear and right-hand side of the sofa. He added there was evidence of a glass being used as an ashtray and a tealight candle on a tray beside the sofa.

“It’s of the opinion of myself that the most probable cause of the fire was the ignition of the sofa by a discarded or dropped cigarette,” he said.

The inquest heard there was no evidence of deliberate ignition or suspicious circumstances around her death and Mr Williamson believed the external and internal fire alarm systems had both been working.

Firefighters carried out CPR, alongside medical staff, until Mrs Douglas could be taken to hospital. Her prognosis was poor, and life-support equipment was eventually turned off.

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