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Depressed pensioner set himself on fire in his home

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: March 03, 2014

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AN 87-YEAR-OLD man doused himself in petrol before setting himself alight, an inquest heard.

John Clark was found dead at his home, in Weaver Close on August 26 last year, surrounded by matches and the remnants of a petrol can.

Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner’s Court heard how Mr Clark, who was born in Paris, had a long history of depression and suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 45. The inquest heard how, in the days leading up to his death, police said he cut all of his bank cards up.

Speaking at an inquest into the man’s death, PC Jonathan Danells-Bewley for Derbyshire Police, (corr) said he was the first officer to the scene.

He told the inquest Mr Clark’s daughter had found her father dead. He said: “We had a phone call to the control room of a report of a sudden death.

“I was the first officer on the scene, with a colleague. I approached the front door which was unlocked but closed and managed to open it partially.

“I saw the deceased lying on the floor behind the door. The windows were blackened and the temperature was very warm.

“Myself and my colleague checked the outside of the house. The curtains were open and the windows were locked. We could see white smoke in all of the rooms.”

He said the fire brigade was then called.

“It was clear that when we entered the house, there were some spent matches around the body in the hall as well as some unopened boxes of matches and some in the kitchen.

“There was the evidence of the remnants of a petrol can in the hall. This matched those in his garage.

“The fire brigade’s conclusions were that the fire was caused from the petrol. They eliminated any other causes of ignition, electrical or otherwise.”

Speaking about his bank cards, he said: “The issue of his bank cards seemed to be very significant to him. He had cut them up but did not know why.”

He said there was no third party involvement.

The inquest heard how Mr Clark had limited mobility and used a walking frame. PC Danells-Bewley said all of the doors in the property were closed.

He added: “His daughter said he would never do that normally because of his mobility problems.

“The closure of the doors contained the fire.

“It seems that there was an element of preparation.”

The inquest heard how Mr Clark, who lived alone, was last seen two days before his death by a friend.

And he is reported to have spoken to his daughter the day before.

PC Danells-Bewley said his daughter tried calling him on the Sunday evening but the phone line was engaged.

He said: “She repeatedly called it but it remained engaged. She was of the belief that the fire happened some time before 7.15pm on Sunday.”

The inquest heard how he was treated for depression in 1967 and was prescribed with anti-depressants.

In September 2012, he was diagnosed with psychosis and the same month was referred to a community mental health team.

In June 2013, his antidepressants were reduced and the following month he was said to have stopped taking his medication.

The inquest heard how Mr Clark had spoken to a health care assistant on August 22, 2013 and complained of “feeling wobbly”.

She visited him the following day. An arrangement was made to visit him again over the next few days. Before the meeting, she was informed Mr Clark had died.

The medical cause of death was given as incineration.

Louise Pinder, assistant coroner, concluded that Mr Clark took his own life.

He was found dead at his home on August 26, 2013.

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