Clare Alliston died after building a fire to keep herself warm in her garage
A catering worker was gassed to death after she started a fire in her garage to keep warm, an inquest has heard.
A birthday card owned by Clare Alliston caught fire in her living room while she was sleeping at home in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, near Manchester.
During an inquest in Manchester, the court heard that the 44-year-old opened the windows the air out the smell of smoke, but then moved to the garage where she kept camping equipment and started a fire to stop herself getting cold.
But the blaze spread to nearby gas cylinders, leading to an explosion and prompting the neighbours to alert the authorities.
Fire crews fire crews attended the scene found her lying in the foetal position at the back of the garage untouched by the flames.
Clive Smith, a fire scene investigator, said: ‘There was evidence of a small fire in the living room of the house. A birthday card had been set alight and proceeded to ignite the throw on her sofa. This soon extinguished itself.
‘There would have been little smoke from this fire but there would have been a smell. It’s my opinion that this is why she opened all the windows in the house.’
The coroner heard that Mrs Alliston, a mother of two, was awoken by her pet cat and found the initial fire had already gone out after starting at around 6am on December 2.
Before relocating to the garage, she sent a text to her friend which said: ‘I have just nearly burnt to death, my sofa set on fire, thank god for Fang, she woke me up.’
The coroner heard that Mrs Alliston, a mother of two, was awoken by her pet cat after a fire was started in her living room at 6am on December 2
Mr Smith said after the second fire was started, some petroleum liquid gas cylinders fell down and expanded 270 their size, causing an explosion.
The temperature also reached 600 degrees and caused the steel in the garage to melt and collapse.
He added: ‘We do believe this was caused by a naked flame. A lighter was found in Clare’s pocket, and her body was found at the back of the garage in a foetal position. Her body was not burnt. A few breaths of the toxic smoke would have caused the disorientation.
‘I believe the fire grew to the size it did in around three minutes. There was no evidence that suggested the cooking equipment or camping equipment started the fire, as they were unplugged and turned off.’
Clare’s brother Neil said his sister, who was originally from Durham, had been badly affected by tragedies in her life including the passing of their mother at an early age and the death of two close friends.
But he added: ‘She loved her kids and would do anything for them.
‘She never expressed any evidence of self harm or suicide. I truly believe this was an accident. She loved her kids too much to do anything like that. She would never harm herself.
‘She was a loving and caring person. She cared more for other people than she did herself. Her door was always open.
‘She was a good swimmer and she also did gymnastics. She did well at school and went to Northumberland University to study hotel management and catering and got a degree in that. She enjoyed cooking and she was really good at it.
Clive Smith, a fire scene investigator, said she then moved to the garage to sleep while airing out the fumes from her house
‘The last time I spoke to her was the night before, she seemed fine. There was nothing off about her behaviour at all. She was excited because she had a new job opportunity. In the garage she used to keep her catering and camping equipment. There was furniture like couches, cookers, gas canisters, pots and pans. She did smoke, but she never purposefully lit things on fire.’
Her friend, Simon Crompton, said: ‘We last spoke at around midnight and she seemed fine. On the day I found out, she and sent me two text messages at around 4am, one reading “I have just nearly burnt to death, my sofa set on fire, thank god for Fang, she woke me up.”
‘I do not believe she would wanted to have taken her own life.’
Police found handwritten notes reading ‘I love you so much, I just can’t do this anymore, love Mummy’ and ‘I can’t do this anymore, I love you kids, don’t ever forget it’ – but it is thought they related an earlier occasion when Mrs Alliston had planned to fly to Spain without her children.
Assistant coroner Zak Golombeck recorded a narrative conclusion and said: ‘I have heard a lot about her struggled with tragic circumstances in her life. However, I have also heard that she was a loving, caring person with a clear passion in her profession, but most importantly, her children and that should never be forgotten.
‘I offer all my sincerest condolences to her close friends and family.’