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Mother died of shock after falling asleep with a cigarette and waking up on fire, inquest hears

A mother died in her own home after falling asleep with a lit cigarette, an inquest has heard.

Janet Jeffs, 57, was found in her bedroom in the foetal position next to a pile of burnt clothes and an empty wine bottle. 

It was thought Mrs Jeffs set her clothes alight accidentally as she fell asleep, but woke up and managed to get to the bathroom to put the flames out.

The remains of burned clothing were also found in her bathroom.  

Neighbours had last seen Mrs Jeffs in her back garden wearing her customary purple fluffy dressing gown and fluffy boots three days before she was found dead at her home in Neath

Police entered her home last August and found Mrs Jeffs dead at the scene, in her home in Neath, a town near Swansea in Wales. 

Neighbours had raised the alarm because they had not seen Mrs Jeffs for three-days, which was ‘out of character’, the inquest was told. 

A post-mortem examination carried out by Doctor Stephen Leadbeatter could not provide a definitive cause of death. 

It is thought the smoke inhalation from her smouldering nightdress caused Mrs Jeffs’ heart to go into arrhythmia and stop. 

The coroner concluded an underlying drink problem was likely to have been a contributing factor. Mrs Jeffs lived alone with her dog named Ollie.

Neighbours had noticed she had lost a ‘significant’ amount of weight in the months before her death and suspected she was drinking heavily.

A neighbour, Julia Allen, gave a statement which was read out at the inquest. She said: ‘She liked to keep herself to herself.

‘I think she had a drink problem. I have heard Janet fall over, but she would say she fell over the dog.’

Neighbours had last seen Mrs Jeffs in her back garden wearing her customary purple fluffy dressing gown and fluffy boots three days before she was found.

Mrs Allen said: ‘She had washed her hair and looked well considering. ‘There were no signs for concern.’

A postman tried to deliver a parcel to Mrs Jeffs’ address on Monday, August 28, but was unable to get an answer.

He left the parcel with Mrs Allen’s husband, who tried her door again at lunchtime, and then 5pm the same day.

Daughter Katie Jeffs, who lives in Peterborough, told the court she had last spoken to her mother on the phone on August 28.

She did not know her mother was drinking, although she had noticed her drastic weight loss during her last visit.

‘She never drank alcohol in front of me,’ she said. ‘She tried to protect me from the lifestyle she had.’

The inquest heard how Mrs Jeffs had a history of alcohol dependence dating back to 1997.  Police had to break down her back door to find her dead on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. 

Dr Leadbeatter confirmed he had found fatty liver deposits and a scarred pancreas during his post mortem examination, which was consistent with alcohol misuse.

He also said that misuse of alcohol can contribute to heart problems, notably arrhythmia.

Assistant coroner Aled Gruffydd concluded an accidental cause of death.