A ferocious fire swept through the Leeds house of a pair of elderly siblings described as “compulsive hoarders” as one of them lay dead, an inquest heard.
The back-to-back property occupied by Joyce Williams and her brother Donald Kinghorn was a hazard because it was “absolutely crammed with rubbish” Leeds Coroner’s Court was told.
Divorcee Ms Williams, 80, was found dead in the house on Westbourne Place, Beeston, in the early hours of January 5 after firefighters extinguished the blaze. Her brother, 72, was in hospital at the time being treated for leg ulcers.
Coroner David Hinchliff heard yesterday it was likely Ms Williams had already died from an existing health issue by the time the fire was ignited, probably by a discarded cigarette.
But he said the case should act as a warning about the dangers of hoarding – and of failing to have working smoke detectors fitted. He added: “They were both compulsive hoarders and their house was absolutely crammed with rubbish. There was just a narrow path through it from one door to another.
“They chose to live in those conditions and it is not for me to dictate the rights and wrongs of that.
“However, those conditions do create a major fire hazard, especially if you have smokers in the house, which both of them were.”
The inquest heard neighbours broke into the house after seeing smoke pouring from the windows, but were fought back by the flames. Ms Williams, who had heart disease and cancer, was found in the living room.
Mr Hinchliff recorded an open verdict, saying the cause of death was unascertained, but Ms Williams had probably died before the fire took hold.