Tributes to grandfather and ‘proud Scotsman’ killed in Norwich flat blaze

A grandfather who died after a flat fire at his home was remembered by his children at his inquest as a 'proud Scotsman'.

Hugh Kearney, 61, died in hospital after a blaze at his ground floor flat in Wilberforce Road, West Earlham.

Emergency services were called to the blaze just before 11pm on May 19.

Mr Kearney, who was a widower and lived alone, was found lifeless on a sofa and was pronounced dead at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital the following morning.

Yesterday's Norwich inquest heard that an investigation found the fire had been caused by a discarded cigarette.

The hearing was told that Mr Kearney was an alcoholic and a heavy smoker, who had consumed a substantial amount that night.

The cause of death was given as asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation with a contributory factor, acute alcohol intoxication.

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The inquest was told that neighbours rushed to Mr Kearney's aid after hearing the smoke alarm, but they were unable to break their way into his flat before the fire brigade arrived.

Three of Mr Kearney's children attended, and his son, also Hugh Kearney, said his father was a heavy drinker who had suffered several accidents while intoxicated.

'He always blamed his dog Benny for tripping him up,' he said. 'I had seen him about 36 hours beforehand and he had looked very frail and very old. He asked me to get him some fags and cider, as he was unable to walk due to his alcoholism.'

Senior fire investigation officer Brian Walshe said: 'I'm 100pc sure the cause of the fire was a discarded cigarette. Mr Kearney was found on the sofa and I imagine he had been watching TV. He had been smoking.'

Summing up, Norfolk coroner William Armstrong acknowledged that Mr Kearney's judgement would have been impaired by alcohol at the time, and recorded a verdict of death as a result of an accidental fire at his home.

In a tribute, the inquest was told that Mr Kearney, who was born in Edinburgh and was a former builder, was 'good-natured, kind-hearted, full of life, and a proud Scotsman who would be truly missed by his children and grandchildren.'