An inquest hearing took place today on the death of four children during a house fire in February last year. Police and fire investigators say that the cause of the fire was a cigarette which ignited the bedding of the parents' bedroom. The children, aged between eight and three years old had died from inhalation of fumes during the horrific house fire in Staffordshire after their parents fell asleep while smoking in bed.
South Staffordshire Coroner Andrew Haigh said that glass consistent with an ashtray was found melted into the springs of a mattress following investigation of the blaze.
Detective Inspector Alan Lyford, of Staffordshire Police, who led the investigation, told the inquest that the parents had also been previously warned by social workers regarding their habit of smoking indoors. This brought Fire investigator Leigh Richards to conclude that the blaze was definitely caused by carelessness while smoking in the bedroom. However, both parents have consistently denied the blaze originated from their bedroom.
Natalie Unitt, 26, and her partner Chris Moulton, 30, were held in police custody under suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence.
Moulton reportedly gave evidence to his belief that the fire started on a landing while Unitt said she had been suffering from post-traumatic disorder and could not recall what she did when the fire broke out.
The coroner said that there is substantial evidence the couple had been continuously smoking indoors despite several warnings from social workers.
"It's understandable they tried to play down the significance of this bearing in mind what has happened", Haigh said.
While Moulton strongly suggested the fire may have started on the landing where the boiler is located, fire investigators have clearly explained their decision to rule out the boiler as the cause of the fire. There was also no evidence that points to an electrical fault or gas supply fault.
In the story from the Daily Mail, a single discarded cigarette butt was found within the recess of the window casement along with evidence that showed the lounge with a number of cigarettes that littered the carpet against the skirting boards.
Both parents admitted they were smoking in bed and had fallen asleep but were woken by the blaze. However despite the admittance of the parents along with the findings and opinions of fire investigators and police officials, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against the couple.