Husband ‘refused to leave wife’s side’ as blaze ripped through their home

PUBLISHED: 08:08 14 December 2016

The scene of the fire, in Queens Road, Somersham.

The scene of the fire, in Queens Road, Somersham.

Archant

A devoted husband died after he refused to leave his bed-bound wife as a fire ripped through their home.

Roger Freestone, 67, and his wife Maureen, 65, were found at their home, in Queens Road, Somersham, on March 28 at about 8pm after emergency services were called to the property to tackle a fire.

On Monday, an inquest, at Huntingdon Town Hall, heard the couple had a “build up of combustible material” causing the fire to spread quickly throughout the house.

The fire started in the couple’s living room after heat radiated from a gas fire, causing a cardboard box to set alight.

Fire investigator for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, station commander Carl Pardon said Mr Freestone moved the box into the hallway and tried to “fight the fire” but it spread quickly to the curtains and the “large amount of combustible material throughout the property”.

Mr Pardon said Mrs Freestone’s carers, Karen Gilby and Heather Clark, from care company Westminster Homecare, were at the property when the fire started.

After calling the emergency services the pair managed to escape.

One of the carers suffered burns to her arms and face as she tried to help control the fire.

He added: “As the fire developed there were a number of explosions, smaller gas canisters getting involved in the fire.”

Gas canisters in the house were used by Mr Freestone in his work as a quantity surveyor.

As fire crews arrived at the scene, the hearing was told, they couldn’t get into the house as the back door was blocked with clutter.

The inquest heard Mrs Freestone was paralysed on her left side in 2014.

Coroner David Heming said post mortems had determined that Mr and Mrs Freestone had died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The inquest also heard that under-lying heart disease was a factor in Mrs Freestone’s death.

Mr Heming, senior coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough recorded a conclusion of accidental death.

He said: “A cardboard box in the front room area accidentally ignited and he [Mr Freestone] attempted to move it into the hallway but unfortunately the fire rapidly spread.

“Rather than attempt to leave the property, where he had a clear opportunity to escape he stayed, no doubt, realising his wife would not be able to extricate herself. This is testament to his utter devotion to his wife.”

Following the couple’s death, the inquest heard that 19 recommendations had been made, by several agencies, to improve links between caring organisations in a bid to prevent a similar incident.

The couple’s daughter Raewyn Freestone said: “We don’t want anybody else to go through what we have gone through.

“We have lost our parents but we have also lost our childhood home. The people who made it home aren’t there any more – it still hurts.”

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