Man took own life in Nelson house fire

Police at the scene of the fatal fire in Princess Street, Nelson.
Police at the scene of the fatal fire in Princess Street, Nelson.
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A teetotal man set fire to his own home while under the influence of alcohol a day after he had been arrested and bailed by police, an inquest heard.

Bryan May (41), of Princess Street, Nelson, died on March 14th in his home after a fire was started deliberately.

East Lancashire Coroner Richard Taylor concluded at Burnley Coroner’s Court that Mr May took his own life following evidence from his family, the police and fire services and a pathologist.

Richard Prescott, who carried out the post mortem, told the inquest Mr May had suffered full depth burns to his right leg, both hands and left arm.

Mr Prescott said it was his belief that carbon monoxide poisoning had killed Mr May, however, as there was evidence of carbon monoxide particles in his lungs and airways from smoke inhalation.

Mr May was found to have blood level of 53% when anything more than 30% was deemed fatal. Mr May also had a 312 milligrammes of alcohol in his blood, which was Mr Prescott described as a “severe degree of intoxication at the time of death”.

The inquest also heard Mr May had been arrested by police on Friday, March 13th after a search a warrant was executed.

It was not revealed at the hearing what Mr May was arrested for but he was taken to the police station, interviewed and bailed by police who drove him home at around 7-30pm on the Friday.

Mr May’s mother Marie Hansen had expressed concern to the coroner that she wished the police had kept him in longer to “get his head straight” again.

But the hearing heard the police have legally bound time limits to keep people in custody unless an application for an extension is made and then approved. DC Hayden Sibley, of Burnley CID, admitted to the inquest it must have been “quite scary” for Mr May who had been arrested for the first time in his life, but he stressed he had not been charged with anything.

DC Sibley said Mr May had been risk assessed by the custody sergeant on his release and had been given a leaflet with advice numbers should he need them. And he added: “We took him home to make sure he was safe and saw him to his front door to make sure he was alright.”

In a statement read out by Mr Taylor, Mrs Hansen said: “The Bryan who set fire to his house that night isn’t the same Bryan my family knew and loved.” She said her son did not drink and that he would keep his house immaculate. After the fire it looked as if somebody had been in there “in a complete frenzy”.

The hearing also heard from Ian Hainsworth, an investigation officer with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, who agreed after seeing photographs that some areas of the house had been “completely changed”.

Mr Hainsworth said the investigation found two seats of fire which suggested it was a deliberate act.

He said everything was unplugged, the boiler was off and although the gas supply on, the hob controls were switched off but that matches had been placed within fire debris.

Mr Hainsworth said a fire alarm on the landing had been “disturbed” as parts and components were found undamaged by heat and fire.

He said a set of ladders had appeared to have fallen down the stairs. Mr May was found at the bottom, partly on them.

He also told the inquest there was no battery in the lounge fire alarm, but Mrs Hansen said she had warned her son about that previously.

Mr Taylor concluded that Mr May had been “persuasive” to police that he was fine and that it had been “out of character” but that he had taken his own life.