Husband of 86-year-old who died following fire took ‘no rational steps’ to save him, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 16:39 23 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:06 23 July 2020

John Allen, who died in a fire in 2016 Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

John Allen, who died in a fire in 2016 Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY


The husband of an 86-year-old man who died in a devastating house fire was the ‘only person’ who could have possibly prevented his death, an inquest has heard.

Police at the scene following the fire in 2016.  Picture: LUCY TAYLORPolice at the scene following the fire in 2016. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

John Allen died in 2016 following a fire at the Ipswich bungalow he shared with his husband and carer, Martin Hallowes.

A three day inquest looking into the circumstances surrounding his death concluded today (July 23) at Suffolk Coroners Court in Ipswich.

The inquest had previously heard how both men were in the property when a fire broke out on March 30, 2016.

Emergency services were called to the scene but Mr Allen later died at Ipswich Hospital having suffered a cardiac arrest and 65% burns to his body.

Mr Hallowes also suffered burns and smoke inhalation, but survived.

Area coroner Jacqueline Devonish today recorded a narrative conclusion, stating that the cause of the fire was still unknown.

Summing up, Ms Devonish described Mr Allen as a “frail, old man” who was not capable of standing or walking.

She added that there was “no evidence” that he would have been able to escape the fire without aid.

The court heard how following the fire, Mr Allen’s family accused Mr Hallowes of causing his death.

Ms Devonish said Mr Hallowes’ evidence to the court had “many contradictory aspects” which he had put down to the “distress of the evening” as well as the length of time since the incident.

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She added that many aspects of his evidence “remained unexplained”.

Despite being unable to ascertain if Mr Hallowes had started the fire, either deliberately or accidentally, Ms Devonish did state that he was the only person who could have “possibly” prevented his death.

She added that he took “no rational steps” to leave the property with Mr Allen or raise the alarm, instead attempting to tackle the blaze himself.

Despite hearing evidence from five fire investigation experts, the cause of the blaze could not be ascertained by the court.

A number of theories were suggested, including an electrical fault in an alarm clock, a dropped cigarette or deliberate ignition.

However, none of the hypotheses could be confirmed or ruled out by any of the expert witnesses due to the significant damage caused by the blaze.

The court also heard how the devastating fire hindered the police who investigated if a third party was involved in the death.

Despite directing “extensive resources” into the investigation, no one was charged by Suffolk Constabulary.

Concluding the inquest, Ms Devonish said: “Mr Allen died in a house fire in circumstances in which the cause of the fire is unknown.”

The medical cause of death was given as inhalation of smoke fumes.

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