Belfast Telegraph

Family appeals for witnesses after OAP's blaze death

The family of a pensioner who died after being found on fire in unexplained circumstances has said it may have been a freak accident.

John Nolan, 70, originally from the west of Ireland, was airlifted to a specialist burns unit after being discovered ablaze on a street near his flat in Tottenham, north London, on Sunday afternoon.

He died in hospital the following day with his sister Mary Caffrey and carer brother Jimmy at his bedside.

Kevin Byrne, Mr Nolan's nephew, said: "We are happy to let the police make their inquiries.

"We just want to appeal to anyone who may have seen anything, whether it was an accident or not, anyone who can place more understanding around it."

Mr Nolan, who emigrated from Swinford, Co Mayo, to London in the 1960s, suffered deep burns on 65% of his body.

The Metropolitan Police said officers in Haringey were called to Williams House in Orchard Place just after 1pm on Sunday, following reports of a fire.

Mr Nolan, described by his nephew as an occasional smoker, had left the flat he was in with his brother to go for a walk when the incident occurred.

They had been due to follow the All-Ireland Football final in which Mayo were playing later in the afternoon in Dublin's Croke Park.

It is understood Mr Nolan was still alive when ambulance crews arrived and is reported to have spoken his last words as he was treated on the ground and referred to a cigarette.

"At first we were not sure of anything ," Mr Byrne said.

"We were not sure where the key was that he wore around his neck.

"Then we heard about that and that he spoke to the ambulance crew.

"It doesn't give the family much solace, but you don't want to contemplate that another human being could do this.

"It's just such a bizarre and strange situation."

A coroner and a police liaison officer have been updating the family.

The family was told on Wednesday that police had Mr Nolan's key and that none of his personal belongings was missing.

Mr Byrne added: "Maybe it was a freak accident. He was frail.

"Maybe if his clothes caught on fire he maybe could not have put it out the way someone younger could have.

"He was well known in the area, well liked. He was a quiet man. He moved slowly.

"Jimmy had a lot of people in the area who'd be looking out for him. It's a fairly multicultural area but there were always people on the street or the park who would have known Jimmy."

Ms Caffrey told The Irish Post her brother was "unrecognisable" in hospital, with nearly all his face swollen and blistered.

"There was no chance for survival," she said. "The medical team said even a strong man in his 20s would struggle to recover.

"We thought it would be kinder to let him go, peacefully and with dignity. There was no point in prolonging the agony as he wasn't going to recover."

Police said investigations were continuing, adding: "The death is being treated as unexplained at this time."

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