Alcoholic ‘set himself on fire’ during session

Bolton Coroner's Court. Picture courtesy of Google
Bolton Coroner's Court. Picture courtesy of Google

A heavy drinker died after he accidently set himself on fire in his living room after dozing off with a lit cigarette in his hand, an inquest has heard.

Chronic alcoholic Robert Woodcock, 55, dozed off at his Leigh home, while smoking, Bolton Coroner’s Court was told.

Alcohol support worker Steven Broughton raised the alarm when he spotted Mr Woodcock motionless on his bed through his flat window.

He contacted the emergency services and police forced an entry into his home but he was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Fire service investigator Jonathan Stewart said there was evidence, through sooty handprints on the walls and burnt patches, that Mr Woodcock had moved from his couch to bed at some point.

“The probable sequence of events is that he has been in the lounge smoking a cigarette and has fallen asleep, with the lit cigarette, which has fallen into his clothing,” said Mr Stewart.

A post-mortem examination later by Dr Mark Sissons gave the cause of death as burns and smoke inhalation. Mr Woodcock’s blood alcohol level showed he was more than three times the drink-driving limit.

The inquest heard that at times Mr Woodcock was drinking half a bottle of whisky and some cans of beers every day, and he suffered hallucinations due to his ongoing alcohol dependency.

And his sister, Susan Andrew, expressed concerns at the hearing regarding his capacity to properly look after himself independently.

Timothy Brennand, Bolton assistant coroner, said that Mr Woodcock’s problems all related to his drinking problem and there was no mental health diagnosis, although he had been an in-patient in 2001.

The inquest heard that he had even completed a rehabilitation course at the Chapman Barker unit at Prestwich - but had visited an off licence shortly after his return home. He also suffered from anxiety and depression and was on medication for all three ailments.

Recording an accidental death conclusion, coroner Mr Brennand said: “This is a sad and sorry example of the dangers of being a smoker who happens to have an alcohol problem.”