Fire death in Kentford may have been ‘cry for help that tragically went wrong’

Firefighters at the scene of the fire on Gazeley Road in Kentford.
Firefighters at the scene of the fire on Gazeley Road in Kentford.
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A 50-year-old woman who is believed to have suffered from post traumatic stress disorder died after starting a fire at her home in a possible ‘cry for help that tragically went wrong’, an inquest heard.

Anne Guinle died from breathing in fumes after setting light to clothing at her home, in Gazeley Road, Kentford, and refused to leave despite attempts by her husband to get her out.

An inquest into her death in Bury St Edmunds on Wednesday, heard that staff from the nearby Fothergill’s Seeds factory tried to get into the smoke filled house and used fire extinguishers to help tackle the blaze - actions which were praised by Suffolk Coroner Dr Peter Dean.

The hearing was told that Mrs Guinle started the fire in her bedroom on February 8 last year and her husband Hilton repeatedly tried to get her out of the building but she ‘declined to leave until the fire service had arrived’.

He managed to escape and a group of staff from Fothergill’s attempted to get into the house to no avail due to the smoke and heat.

They used fire extinguishers from the factory to try to tackle the blaze. Dr Dean said they should be ‘commended for their efforts’.

A post mortem examination by pathologist Benjamin Swift found Mrs Guinle died from inhaling fumes.

The inquest heard that she had been treated by mental health professionals and appeared to have taken a quantity of tablets with the aim of being admitted to hospital.

Mrs Guinle had been involved in a ‘serious road traffic collision’ when a bus she was travelling on was involved in a collision with a truck - cutting the bus in half.

It was believed she had an anxiety disorder and what was likely to be post traumatic stress disorder.

The hearing was also told of an incident in January in which she had set fire to papers in a spare room.

Given this incident and the fact that she may have taken tablets to get into hospital, Dr Dean said her death may have been an ‘accidental outcome of a cry for help that tragically had gone wrong’.

He said: “It was clear though that her husband did what he could in these very difficult circumstances.”

Dr Dean recorded a narrative verdict that she died as a consequence of a fire at her home - adding ‘it’s more likely to be the accidental outcome of her actions rather than an intentional act to take her own life’.