Squatter 'killed by fire he started to keep himself warm'

Squatter 'killed by fire he started to keep himself warm'

Fire officers at the scene of the blaze in Manchester Road, Bolton, in January.

Below, a police officer guards the house in Manchester Road, Bolton, in January.

First published in News
Last updated
The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , reporter

A SQATTER'S death was probably caused by a fire he started to keep himself warm, an inquest heard.

Christopher Dennis Murphy died after the fire broke out in the ground floor of a property in Manchester Road, Bolton, on January 29.

He was found lying upstairs in the unoccupied terraced house, where he had been squatting, and was pulled out by firefighters.

Mr Murphy, who fled to Bolton because he believed he was a target of the St Helens travelling community, was later pronounced dead at the Royal Bolton Hospital.

An inquest at Bolton Coroners Court heard Mr Murphy, who was aged 43 and originally from St Helens, died after he inhaled the toxic fumes produced by the inferno.

Area Coroner Alan Walsh was told Mr Murphy had a history of heroin and alcohol abuse as well as mental health issues. He had self-harmed.

Forensic pathologist Dr Naomi Carter said that soot was found in his airways and lungs during the post-mortem examination.

The inquest heard that Mr Murphy had previously been involved with the St Helens travelling community and had told people that he had moved away from the area because he was in fear of the group.

Community mental health nurse Paula Spencer Smith said: “His main concern was the fear of the St Helens travelling community.

"He told me he had given evidence to police about a shooting that had resulted in someone going to jail and he was scared about them coming to get him.”

Mr Walsh told the inquest that there was limited evidence to prove this threat was real, but accepted that the concern he had may have lead Mr Murphy to lead a “nomadic” lifestyle, which involved residing in Manchester, Blackpool and finally, Bolton.

The last person to see Mr Murphy before his death was Leon Blears, who lived in the house next door in Manchester Road.

He said he bumped into Mr Murphy, whom he did not know, in Bolton town centre on January 22.

He found out he was squatting next door to his house in Manchester Road.

He later went to see him and described squalid conditions inside the property including dirty hypodermic needles.

Mr Blears said: “It was freezing as well — I told him to come and stay at mine where it was warm but he said no.”

Mr Murphy’s brother, Dennis Murphy, said he and his family had not seen him since July 2013. The last spoke to Mr Murphy in December last year.

Mr Walsh recorded a verdict of misadventure.

He said: “It is likely that he started the fire to keep warm and that it developed and got out of hand.

“He may have tried to escape by running upstairs — the fact soot was found in his lungs suggests he was breathing when the fire started.”

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