Man, 70, accidentally set fire to his clothes while lighting cigarette – coroner

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A pensioner who died after being found in flames on the street accidentally ignited his clothing while lighting a cigarette, a coroner has concluded.

John Nolan’s death near his flat in Tottenham, north London, was the subject of a police appeal for witnesses while they were unable to explain the incident.

But coroner Andrew Walker concluded on Tuesday that the retired construction worker, 70, originally from the west of Ireland, died as a result of “accidental ignition of clothing”.

“It’s likely that Mr Nolan accidentally set his clothes on fire whilst lighting a cigarette,” Mr Walker told North London Coroner’s Court.

The Irishman, who was found with a pack of cigarettes and two lighters, suffered “severe” burns on 65% of his body after being alight for around six minutes.

The coroner agreed with the police’s ultimate conclusion that Mr Nolan did not ignite himself deliberately, there was no-one else involved and a flammable liquid did not aid the fire.

Instead it was a “really tragic accident” aided by his lack of mobility, he said.

But at around 1pm, the Metropolitan Police were called to reports of a fire near Williams House in Orchard Place.

Passers-by tried to extinguish the flames and Mr Nolan was airlifted to Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford, Essex, where he died the following day. His brother and sister, Mary Caffrey, were with him.

After the inquest, John Nolan’s nephew Kevin Byrne said the family agreed with the conclusion and it brought them some comfort.

“It’s been a very painful case for the family,” said the 32-year-old journalist, who lives in County Wicklow.

“But hopefully the verdict appears to have brought a bit of closure.”

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