Police still investigating cause of fire which killed family, inquest told

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Police are still investigating the cause of a farmhouse fire which killed a father and five of his children, an inquest heard.

Dave Cuthbertson, 68, died in the fire alongside children Just Raine, 11, Reef Raine, 10, Misty Raine, nine, Patch Raine, six, and Gypsy Grey Raine, four.

An inquest into their deaths heard the blaze broke out near or inside the lounge of their home near Llangammach Wells in Powys, mid-Wales, on October 30 last year.

The one-day hearing, at Welshpool Town Hall, was told Dyfed-Powys Police are still investigating the cause of the blaze due to the level of damage.

Detective Inspector Adam Ellis said a “number of enquiries” were still to be made.

David Cuthbertson
David Cuthbertson, 68, died following a fire at a farmhouse along with his five young children (Dyfed-Powys Police)

“We have kept an open mind in terms of the causation of the fire,” he said.

“We’ve been very mindful of the fact there could’ve been foul play during our investigation.

“We’ve been presented with no evidence to show there’s been involvement of a third party.”

Undated Dyfed-Powys Police handout photo of police investigating the scene of a fire at a farmhouse at Llangammarch Wells, Powys on October 30, 2017 which claimed the lives of David Cuthbertson, 68, and five young children (Dyfed-Powys Police/PA)
Police investigating the scene of the fire (Dyfed-Powys Police/PA)

Richard Hancock, manager of the fire investigation team at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue, said extension blocks could overheat and ignite if added to an original block.

“Given the degree of destruction in the room of origin and accounts placing the fire in the ground floor lounge, it was very difficult to identify one particular item as being the cause of the fire,” he said.

“Electricity does still remain a possible cause of ignition.”

One of Mr Cutherbertson’s children had suggested that the house smelled of gas in the lead up to the blaze.

But the inquest was told that investigators have ruled out a gas leak as the cause of the fire.

Mr Hancock added: “Had there been a gas leak in the premises, I’d expect to see an explosion more than a fire.

“Also you would’ve expected any fire to then burn back to the exposed pipework. That wasn’t the case.”

Copper pipes on a radiator had melted, meaning the temperature inside the farmhouse during the blaze would have exceeded 1,085 degrees, Mr Hancock said.

A police search dogs van drives towards the scene in Llangammarch Wells, Powys (Ben Birchall/PA)
A police search dogs van drives towards the scene in Llangammarch Wells, Powys (Ben Birchall/PA)

Roger Smith, crew manager of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service appliance which first responded to the emergency, said the farmhouse was “fully on fire”.

“I noticed all the windows were blackened. On the left hand side the windows were broken,” Mr Smith said.

“There was enormous radiated heat coming from the windows. The roof had fallen through and there were signs of collapse at the property.

“The property was fully ablaze. You couldn’t make out any of the external structure of the property.

“It was incredibly hot. You couldn’t go anywhere near the windows. Where they were broken the blast of heat was intense.

“To the right hand side you couldn’t approach the window or get within a couple feet of it.

“It was not safe to enter from the heat point of view and also from collapse as well.”

A road sign close to the scene in Llangammarch Wells (Ben Birchall/PA)
A road sign close to the scene in Llangammarch Wells (Ben Birchall/PA)

“The fire was fully developed so I imagine the heat in the property would have melted them,” he added.

The inquest was told Mr Cuthbertson had been at home with eight of his children when the blaze broke out around midnight on October 30 last year.

Three of his young children, Leaf, Blue and Farr, managed to escape the fire and alert emergency services.

Coroner Andrew Barkley is hearing evidence at the inquest before he records the family members’ cause of death later on Monday.

The inquest continues.

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