A HOUSE fire which killed a pensioner was started by a carelessly discarded cigarette, an inquest was told.

Eva De Coverley was in bed at her home in Church Road, Kelvedon, when the fire began in the early hours of March 22.

The 77-year-old died at the scene due to smoke inhalation despite the efforts of the emergency workers to save her.

The inquest heard yesterday Mrs De Coverley had been living at the house by herself following the death of her husband in September 2017.

The court heard she was bed-bound due a spine condition in a room downstairs and was attended to by carers several times each day.

Kirsty Roberts, from the coroner’s office, said: “She was a smoker and her family report she was smoking a lot.

“Her great niece was living next door and was awoken by a smoke alarm shortly after midnight. She went to assist but was prevented by the flames.

“Mrs De Coverley was found on her bed and the cause of death was asphyxiation.”

Simon Dedman, station commander for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said there had been extensive damage to Mrs De Coverley’s bed.

He said: “I attended the scene at about 1.30am on the night of the fire.

“There was a significant amount of smoking paraphernalia, including a smoking tray, that was found downstairs in the bedroom under the debris.

“Several potential sources of ignition were identified in the room but having considered the evidence the source has been recorded as a carelessly discarded cigarette.”

Mr Dedman said the use of petroleum jelly to treat ailments may have contributed to accelerating how quickly the fire spread in the bedroom.

Det Insp Rob Kirby, from Essex Police, confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident.

Caroline Beasley-Murray, the coroner, thanked Francis De Coverley for providing an extensive amount of background information about the life of his mother who he said loved “chocolate and good telly.”

Mr De Coverley said his mother had smoked for up to 40 years and had been warned about the dangers of smoking in bed several times.

He said: “She was told continuously not to smoke in bed when I was with her. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

“The personnel who attended were exemplary, all I can say is thank you so much for what you did on the night.”

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