A MAN died after washing accidentally caught fire while being being dried at his bedsit, an inquest jury concluded.

Steven Billington died after inhaling smoke in the blaze at the flat in Bradford Avenue, off Manchester Road, Burnden, on March 25 last year.

The inquest heard the former bricklayer had removed the protective grille from a gas fire and put the clothes on a maiden in front of it.

The 49-year-old, who had at least seven children, fell unconscious after the first floor of the converted house became smoke-logged.

A jury at Bolton Coroner's Court yesterday concluded his death was "an accident from a deliberate act of putting his clothing on a maiden and placing the maiden in front of the unprotected gas fire, resulting in the unintentional ignition of the clothing".

The court previously heard Mr Billington was a heavy drinker whose blood revealed he had consumed "excessive amounts" of pain relief medication tramadol and of anti-depressant drug amitriptyline, which would have together had a sedative effect on him.

His aunt Amy Jarett lived in a flat in the same building and said Mr Billington was known to remove the grille to in order to light cigarettes and she had in the past loaned him a freestanding clothes airer, which she knew he used to place in front of the gas fire to dry his washing.

Jennifer Leeming, senior coroner for Manchester West, said: "What had probably happened was Mr Billington had got up from his bed and because it was a cold day he had lit the gas fire, which wasn't protected by the grille. The fire had started.

"Mr Billington had gone into the bathroom and the kitchen area of his flat while the fire was developing.

"When Mr Billington returned to the living areas, he had been quickly overcome by smoke and a couple of breaths would result in collapse."

Fire investigators found the house's mains-wired fire alarm system, which was shared with the neighbouring house owned by the same landlord, had been switched off from a panel in the utility room and the battery-operated smoke alarm and heat detector in Mr Billington's flat had been removed.