Couple died of smoke fumes in ‘savage’ Roxton blaze

The aftermath of the blaze
The aftermath of the blaze

A couple died of smoke inhalation in a “particularly savage fire” at a caravan park in Roxton, a coroner has concluded.

69-year-old Elsie May Walker and her partner Daniel Patrick Breen, 77, were staying at Kelpie Marina when a fire struck in the early hours of December 18.

Despite the efforts of friends and the Fire and Rescue Service to save them, both were found lying dead in the caravan.

A postmortem found both died of smoke inhalation.

The inquest heard that the couple, who lived in Hatfield, stayed at the site quite regularly.

Det Con Darren Armitage told the court the pair had been drinking socially that evening, celebrating the fact that retired paramedic Mr Breen’s daughter had sold her house, and were joined by friend Timothy Barton.

Mr Barton left them that night but later saw the fire.

Senior coroner Tom Osborne noted: “Mr Barton tells us that he walked back towards the caravan and saw thick smoke billowing from the top of the caravan.”

It emerged the couple slept in single beds, but often kept an electric fire switched on between them overnight.

Mr Osborne added: “The other residents indicated that they had warned them about this on a number of occasions.”

Fire investigator Lorraine Moore said the fire destroyed nearly all electrical appliances, making it impossible to pinpoint its source.

The pair’s bodies were at the opposite end of the caravan, away from their beds.

This came as a surprise to Mrs Walker’s daughter and son-in-law, who said that the family had “assumed” the couple died in their sleep.

Reaching his conclusion, Mr Osborne said on the balance of probabilities it was more likely than not that the electric fire has started the blaze.

He added: “Whether they tried to escape or were asleep on the caravan floor, I simply do not know.

“The conclusion I have reached is that Daniel and Elsie have died as the result of an accident.”