A coroner has issued a safety plea to householders after an elderly man died in a fierce fire at his Leeds flat.
David Hinchliff urged people to ensure they had working smoke detectors following the death of James Whitburn at Hill Top Mount in Chapeltown.
An inquest into the 73-year-old’s death yesterday heard he may have started the fire deliberately – but not to kill himself.
He died from smoke inhalation and burns in the early hours of September 9 last year.
Mr Hinchliff, who heard that Mr Whitburn did not have smoke detectors, said: “I would like to use this opportunity to reiterate the message that we should all have properly serviced and working smoke detectors.”
The inquest heard divorced Mr Whitburn was originally from Bangor in North Wales but had worked as an air traffic controller with the RAF as far afield as Singapore and the Maldives.
He was later a probation officer in Liverpool, an insurance salesman and, after settling in Leeds, worked for takeaways and taxi firms.
His daughter, Suzy Zito, said he developed a gambling problem and had also spent time in prison for benefit fraud, but was not suicidal.
Firefighters forced their way into the first floor flat, above a clothes shop, shortly after midnight on September 9 after a 999 call from a neighbour. Mr Whitburn was already dead when they found him slumped on his sofa.
The blaze was so intense it had burned a hole through the floor into the store below.
It is thought Mr Whitburn set fire to cushions or clothing.
But Mr Hinchliff said: “He might have just done something completely out of character, more out of confusion than anything else.”
He recorded a verdict of accidental death.