Man and mother die in blaze

TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known retired teacher and his mother who died in an horrific house fire Colchester in the early hours of yesterday morning.

TRIBUTES have been paid to a well-known retired teacher and his mother who died in an horrific house fire in Colchester in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Former Gilberd School teacher Frank Carter died along with his mother, Emilie, at the Georgian home they shared in Land Lane, off East Hill.

Fire crews from across Essex were called to the Grade II-listed property at about 1.40am where a fierce blaze had taken hold.

The blaze was put out but neither Mr Carter, who was also a reader at St James the Less and St Helen Catholic Church on Priory Street, nor his bed-bound mother escaped.

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Essex Fire Service’s urban search and rescue team was called and efforts were made to make the house safe before trained dogs were sent into the property.

One body was found although the extent of the damage meant the second has yet to be taken out.

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The blaze is not currently being treated as suspicious, however Mr Carter had recently spoken of his concerns after vandals pushed items through his letter box and threw rubbish into the garden.

Mr Carter, who had continued work as a college lecturer after he retired, was an avid reader and yesterday blackened and burnt pages of his books could be seen drifting across the nearby Riverside housing estate.

Angel Castro-Lopez, a student staying with Dennis Powell in the house next door, saw the flames and tried desperately to alert the family to the danger.

“I was banging on the door but there was nothing. It was like a gas explosion,” he said.

And Mr Powell said: “We raised the alarm – Angel went outside in the garden, he could see one of the chimney pots was on fire.

“There was smoke coming out, even flames, so Angel rapped on the front door. The rapidity of it was staggering – it just swept through the whole place and at one stage it was like a volcano coming out of the roof.”

Mr Powell described Mr Carter as “something of a recluse”, saying the avid reader’s house, called Maydays, was up to the eaves with books.

Eddie Ross, who taught at the Gilberd School at the same time as Mr Carter, described him as a “gentleman”.

He said: “He was very polite, he kept himself to himself but he was a nice person. He was always walking around with his raincoat, umbrella and briefcase. It’s very sad.

“I think he came from quite a distinguished Colchester family and it was his grandfather who was sent to Italy to bring back a statue of St Helena which sits on top of the town hall.

“The garden at the house was totally overgrown – I stumbled across it once and it was like the Lost Gardens of Heligan.”

Mr Carter started work as an English teacher at the Gilberd School in 1967, retiring in 1994.

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