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Devastating house fire which killed couple was caused by candle, inquest hears

More than 60 firefighters tackled the blaze in Capel St Mary, which claimed the lives of Pauline and Peter Leatherdale  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

More than 60 firefighters tackled the blaze in Capel St Mary, which claimed the lives of Pauline and Peter Leatherdale Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A married couple died in a devastating house fire after a candle ignited furniture and destroyed a home in Capel St Mary, an inquest heard.

Firefighters preparing to enter the house with breathing apparatus   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFirefighters preparing to enter the house with breathing apparatus Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Pauline and Peter Leatherdale, both 75, were killed in the blaze which broke out in Chapel Close on October 2 last year.

More than 60 firefighters tackled the fire and neighbours spoke of their shock at the tragedy.

Family members tried to rescue the pair, senior coroner Nigel Parsley told their inquests at Suffolk Coroner’s Court, but they both had very poor mobility and it was not possible to help them escape.

Mr Parsley said a candle in Mrs Leatherdale’s room, which she was sharing with husband Peter, ignited the bedclothes and a fire quickly took hold.

Firefighters were sent to the scene (stock image) Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFirefighters were sent to the scene (stock image) Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Despite the best efforts of family and emergency crews the couple, from West Bergholt, near Colchester, both died in the blaze.

The inquests heard both Mr and Mrs Leatherdale had known heart conditions and were frail.

Mr Parsley said the couple both died from the effects of smoke inhalation, contributed to by their heart conditions.

Born in Colchester, the inquest heard Mr Leatherdale was a retired medical lecturer, while Mrs Leatherdale – who was born in Bury St Edmunds – was a housewife.

Emergency services attend the scene of the fatal house fire in Capel St Mary where the couple died  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNEmergency services attend the scene of the fatal house fire in Capel St Mary where the couple died Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Speaking at the scene of the tragedy, Ian Bowell, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service area commander, said when crews arrived smoke and flames were coming out of the ground floor and upstairs windows.

He added: “It is absolutely tragic and this community in which they lived is in a complete state of shock at this moment in time.”

Jackie Fulcher, who lives just a few houses down, said what had happened was “heartbreaking”.

Soon after news of the fire broke, a crowdfunding page was set up by the community to raise money for the rest of the family, who had become homeless.

Within 24 hours, the page had collected more than £7,000 in donations – more than 10 times the amount they had hoped for.

When the appeal was closed, the total had reached more than £11,000.

Concluding both inquests, Mr Parsley recorded that Mr and Mrs Leatherdale’s deaths were accidents.


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