Proibe after man dies in house blaze

By Ted JeoryAN investigation has been launched after a pensioner who lived alone and was recovering from the death of his wife died in a house blaze.

By Ted Jeory

AN investigation has been launched after a pensioner who lived alone and was recovering from the death of his wife died in a house blaze.

Fire and police investigators were combing a two-storey house in Colchester yesterday for clues into the cause of the blaze that killed widower Ray Johnson.

The body of the 77-year-old was found in an upstairs bedroom of his house in Chaplin Drive shortly after residents spotted smoke billowing from a window at about 1pm. He is the fifth person to die in a fire in Essex this year.


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His neighbour Heather Stanier said: “I'm extremely shaken by it. I was very fond of him and had known him along time.

“A man came and banged on my door saying he could see smoke next door and asking if there was anybody trapped inside.

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“I told him there was an elderly man there who would have been alone. He tried to break in, but there was no glass panelling on the door so he couldn't get inside.

“A meals-on-wheels man then arrived who knew the security code and the fire brigade were able to get in, but unfortunately it was too late.”

It is understood Mr Johnson, who was housebound and a smoker, had children living in the Colchester and Wivenhoe areas.

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: “His wife died a year ago last November and that hit him pretty hard.

“He was just starting to recover from that and getting back on track when he had a nasty fall in the summer and broke his hip.”

She added:

“After that nobody ever really saw much of him. I used to go round every Monday morning for tea and a chat, but that stopped - he didn't like opening the door for anybody.

“He had carers, but he was having a bad time. He was a lovely man and I shall miss him.”

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said a post-mortem examination would be carried out, but added there was no evidence to suggest the fire was suspicious.

A spokesman for Essex fire service added: “Although a fire investigation has not been completed, initial signs suggest that the fire was started by smoking materials.

Essex Chief Fire Officer David Turner said the county's annual average for fire deaths was about 10.

“So being four weeks into the New Year and already half way there is extremely worrying to me. I hope with the launch of our new Home Fire Safety Campaign we can put an end to these preventable tragedies,” he added.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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