Man unlawfully killed in hotel fire with partner after night porter put embers in cupboard, inquest hears
A man who died with his partner in a fire at a luxury hotel told his mother he was “drowning in dreams” for his future the day before the blaze, in inquest has heard.
Simon Midgley, 32, and Richard Dyson, 38, were unlawfully killed when fire engulfed the five-star Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond on December 18 2017, a coroner in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, concluded on Wednesday.
Mr Midgley’s mother Jane told the hearing that her son, who ran his own travel PR and journalism business, phoned her from the hotel on December 17 saying the couple were “having a fabulous time”.
She told court he said: “I’m drowning in dreams, mother dear. And I promise you life is going to be good from now on.”
Mrs Midgley, from Pudsey, Leeds, said her son told her: “I’m so looking forward to spending Christmas with you. Don’t forget my pigs-in-blankets.”
-> Swarcliffe police incident: Teenager's hand chopped off in machete attack in LeedsWakefield senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin outlined the basic details of how the blaze started at the hotel after a night porter put a bag full of embers in a cupboard.
Mr McLoughlin expressed frustration and “puzzlement” that he had not been granted access to thousands of pages of documents from the investigation by Scottish authorities, including 1.2 terabytes of CCTV footage, due to “confidentiality” rules.
The coroner also said he was puzzled why Scottish prosecutors had taken three years to conclude a criminal case when it was clear from footage shown on media reports how the fire had begun.
Earlier this year, hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) was fined £500,000 and night porter Christopher O’Malley was given a community payback order after admitting fire safety offences.
Mrs Midgley told the court she was still waiting to hear whether there would be a fatal accident inquiry in Scotland and, asked if there should be she said, “100%”, adding she would continue to campaign for it.
She said the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) continued to tell her she could not have documents relating to the case due to confidentiality, which the coroner told her would not happen in England.
-> Mum describes moment police vans swarmed Leeds street after woman's deathMr Dyson’s father Roger, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, told the coroner his family also wanted a fatal accident inquiry but this was “in limbo”.
He said his son, who was an assistant TV director, was a “gentle loving person who was living life and loving life”.
Roger Dyson told the inquest he thought the fine handed to the hotel company was “derisory”.
The coroner said he was concerned by evidence he heard about how the guest list was left inside the hotel during the evacuation and there was a gap of more than an hour between firefighters arriving and them working out Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley were missing.
Mr Dyson’s father told the inquest this delay “was fatal, in my view”.
The coroner said he has no power to make recommendations to Scottish authorities about this matter but he will be writing to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and other relevant bodies.
Mr McLoughlin said: “It cries for a technological solution.”
He suggested that cloud-based computer guest lists accessible by firefighters might be a solution, but added: “Whether that would have made a difference in this case we cannot say.”
The coroner said he will copy Scottish authorities into his report, and the issue “deserves explanation and consideration”.
Mr McLoughlin said he had decided he could safely conclude both men had been unlawfully killed, despite there being no manslaughter prosecution in Scotland.
He said one key element of this decision was that the hotel had been “expressly warned” about slack procedures for dealing with embers from open fires.
Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley lived together in Somerfield Road, north London, the inquest heard.
The was told that more than 200 guests were evacuated from the building during the fire, including a family of two adults and a child who were rescued by ladder and taken to hospital.
O’Malley had emptied ash and embers from a fire into a polythene bag and placed it in a cupboard which contained combustibles including kindling and newspapers, the coroner said.
Speaking briefly after the two-hour hearing, Mrs Midgley said she would continue to fight for a fatal accident inquiry.