A MUCH-LOVED father died after suffering smoke inhalation during a fire, an inquest has heard.

Paul Preston was found unresponsive by firefighters at his property in Langham Drive, Clacton, on the morning of January 28.

An inquest looking into the death of the 61-year-old dad opened at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court yesterday.

Coroner’s officer Ria Hall said: “On January 28 the fire service attended Mr Preston’s home address just after 9am after a neighbour had spotted smoke coming from the property and dialled 999.

“He was found unresponsive inside the property.

“A post mortem was carried out by a doctor at Colchester Hospital which gave the provisional cause of death as smoke inhalation due to fire.

Senior Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray adjourned the inquest in preparation for a full hearing on September 9.

She said: “I will require a copy of the post mortem and toxicology reports. We will be waiting for the fire service’s report.

“The family will be invited to provide a statement.”

Following the blaze, an investigation found the fire was likely to have been started by a portable heater inside the property.

Mr Preston lived in the flat with his son and best friend, James, as well as his dog Jess, who also died in the fire.

After his death, Mr Preston’s daughter Evie paid tribute to her father.

She said: “He had a family who loved him and we are all so in shock and upset.

“He was more than just an old man and his dog.

“My brother was his companion, they were inseparable.

“He is now very lost and also lost his home.”