OAP died starting fire in her garage

By Tony Gardner A WIDOW was killed after starting a fire in her garage on the day her family made a desperate attempt to get her psychiatric help.

An inquest heard that Eileen Piper, 71, probably died after being overcome by toxic fumes while burning documents.

Mrs Piper, a former deputy head teacher of Newton Hill Junior and Infant'' School in Wakefield, was found crouched in the corner of her garage by firefighters.

A postman raised the alarm when he saw smoke as he delivered mail to her home on Ledger Lane, Outwood, Wakefield.

Mrs Piper's daughter Judith Rogers, told the hearing in Wakefield that her mother had become reclusive in the months leading up to her death. Before this she had been a "cheerful and intelligent" woman who would often fight for local causes.

She was a founder member and chairman of Wakefield and District Family History Society and had been influential in stopping the closure of her local library in Outwood.

Mrs Rogers said her mother's mental state may have been triggered when Mrs Piper's sister, Hazel, had to give up her home and receive permanent hospital care because she was suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Mrs Piper had taken on power of attorney of her sister's financial affairs and for some reason began to blame herself for the loss of the property.

Doctor

Mrs Rogers said her mother was on anti-depressant tablets. She said she had been putting pressure on doctors for Mrs Piper to be referred for psychiatric treatment because she was showing signs of paranoia, but no further action was taken.

On the morning of the incident Mrs Rogers' husband had been to a doctor to request that Mrs Piper be given an emergency appointment.

Police initially sealed off the area after the incident on May 9, but it soon became clear it was not suspicious. Forensic scientists had to use dental records to identify the body but pathologist Helen Whitwell said the cause of death was smoke inhalation.

Recording a verdict of death by misadventure, West Yorkshire coroner David Hinchliff said: "Mrs Piper had developed a notion that she had done something really bad which would reflect on her family. That was clearly a figment of her imagination.

"It might well have been in her mind that she thought she was going to get rid of incriminating evidence. It could have been that she was in the course of burning these documents and things got out of hand."

Speaking to her family, he said: "You are disappointed, as I am, that there could not have been a more positive reaction from the psychiatric services.

"I am sure if you wish to pursue this in the future you would have justification in doing so."

tony.gardner@ypn.co.uk

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