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Woman's death in fire was an accident

PUBLISHED: 15:45 31 July 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

AN ELDERLY Ipswich man who had devotedly cared for a mentally disabled friend for over 12 years, left her flat just minutes before it caught fire and she died, a coroner's court has heard.

AN ELDERLY Ipswich man who had devotedly cared for a mentally disabled friend for over 12 years, left her flat just minutes before it caught fire and she died, a coroner's court has heard.

Asquith Douglas, aged 85, had dedicated his life to caring for Netta Jeffries, 20 years his junior, after she moved into a flat in Woodhouse Square.

Coroner Peter Dean said it was clear Ms Jeffries was Mr Douglas' "life work."

In a statement from Ms Jeffries GP, Dr Jonathan Orr, that was read to the court, Mr Orr said: "He (Mr Douglas) would make visits of up to 20 times a day. Sometimes I would make visits myself without an appointment to check her care was OK.

"I can only say that her standard of care was always excellent. I would go as far as to say that if I ever found myself in a similar position then I would hope and be honoured to have someone as kind and caring as Mr Douglas to look after me."

The court heard how Mr Douglas had made a visit to the first floor flat in the afternoon of February 27 this year but shortly after the flat had caught fire.

A fire investigation had proved that the blaze had started accidentally and had taken hold very quickly.

Ms Jeffries, who also suffered from psychological problems, died from bronchial pneumonia, smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, brought on by superficial burns caused by the fire. She had also been suffering heart disease.

Neither Mr Douglas or any family members were in court, but coroner Dr Peter Dean took time to call the case "extremely tragic" and expressed his sympathy to those involved.

In conclusion he said: "I have no choice but to record a verdict of accidental death in this extremely tragic case."

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