Husband deliberately set fire to his home after marriage break-up, inquest hears

House fire at Kingsmead Court Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams. House fire at Kingsmead Court Littleport. Picture: Steve Williams.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
6:16 PM

A man upset at having split up from his wife killed himself by deliberately setting fire to his home, an inquest heard.

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A hearing into the death of Toby Satchell heard that his wife Lucy had left their shared home in Kingsmead, Littleport due to difficulties in their relationship.

Despite being upset at the end of their four-year marriage, Mrs Satchell said the 28-year-old hospital worker had been “talking about the future” and never indicated that he was thinking about killing himself.

She had even sent him a text message less than 24 hours before his death, which read: “Toby, I really hope we can be on good terms. I know it’s a lot to ask.”

Mr Satchell’s body was later discovered in an upstairs bedroom of the house after he set alight to the property on Sunday, August 18 this year. Matches were found by his side.

The subsequent fire - which started at about 11.50am - ripped through the home, with neighbours reporting that they heard loud bangs as windows blew out and black smoke billowed from a first-floor window.

A statement from next-door neighbour Dean Smith described the explosion as “like nothing I’ve ever heard before”.

He and his partner grabbed their children and went to the front of the house where they heard another bang, which caused some windows to blow out.

Fellow neighbour Shaun Russell told the inquest at Wisbech’s Boathouse how he and a neighbour then tried to get into the house by the front door and went round the back of the property to see if there was anything they could do.

They were unable to get inside but had the foresight to turn off the gas supply at the property to prevent any risk of further explosions.

With tiles falling off the roof, neighbours then tried to throw broken tiles at the front door in an attempt to get in before firefighters arrived.

After using a covering jet to knock down the flames in the hallway, firefighters tried to get up the stairs but had to withdraw for safety reasons.

Crews from Littleport, Ely and Sutton then used an extra-high ladder to fight the blaze. Having put out most of the flames, they called on assistance from the Norfolk Urban Search and Rescue team to make the structure of the house safe enough for them to continue their work.

Once that was done, they were able to go inside and damp down remaining hotspots. The fire was extinguished completely by 7.05pm - more than seven hours after the explosion.

Fire investigator Mark Turner said the blaze left severe fire damage throughout the property, adding: “There’s little doubt that the fire was started deliberately.”

Reaching a conclusion that Mr Satchell had killed himself, Mr Morris said that all evidence pointed to a fire that was “deliberately started by the deceased”.

He added: “We have heard evidence as to an unhappy state of Mr Satchell’s marriage. I consider that had influenced him and his state of mind.”

A post mortem showed that Mr Satchell died from smoke inhalation.

Mr Satchell and his wife - who were both practising Christians at the High Street Baptist Church in Isleham - had consulted Paul Hedger, the church’s minister, about their marital problems.

Mr Hedger said Mr Satchell had not indicated that he was contemplating his own death.

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