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Family of James Francis, who died in fire he started at his home in Great Hockham, give thanks after inquest

PUBLISHED: 13:42 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 13:42 27 June 2017

The scene after the fire in Scotgate Close, Great Holkham. Picture: Ian Burt

The scene after the fire in Scotgate Close, Great Holkham. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2016

The family of a man who died in a fire he started at his home have thanked the people who tried to help him.

The scene after the fire in Scotgate Close, Great Holkham. Picture: Ian BurtThe scene after the fire in Scotgate Close, Great Holkham. Picture: Ian Burt

James Francis, 81, died at a blaze at Scotgate Close, Great Hockham, on November 10 last year.

Jacqueline Lake, senior coroner, said at an inquest at Norwich Coroner’s Court today (Tuesday, June 27) that the medical cause of death was smoke inhalation due to conflagration.

Three empty five-litre petrol cans were found in and near the house, the inquest heard.

Mrs Lake said: “I’m satisfied that Mr Francis took the steps to deliberately start the fire.”

Norfolk Coroner's Court. Photo by Simon FinlayNorfolk Coroner's Court. Photo by Simon Finlay

But Mrs Lake said she could not be sure that Mr Francis, who was being increasingly affected by dementia, intended to take his own life.

Mr Francis had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in January 2016 and was also suffering from a loss of hearing and sight.

Although he was taking medication and had seen a mental health nurse, his mental state had deteriorated.

The inquest heard how after the fire started about 3pm, a neighbour, retired firefighter Leonard Mockford, broke a glass conservatory door and risked his life by going into the house to try to save anyone inside.

Mrs Lake called Mr Mockford’s action’s “very brave”.

Mr Francis’s wife, Joy, had gone to an appointment and was not at home at the time.

The inquest heard that Mr Francis, known as ‘Jim’, was a retired joiner/carpenter, had an active lifestyle.

He went on a long walk every day, enjoyed gardening, played the piano and was an active member of his church.

Mr Francis was also his wife’s carer.

His son, Chris Francesco, said: “Dad was a loving, kind and popular person.

“We would really like to thank the neighbour and the emergency services for their outstanding work and trying to do everything they could.”

Mr Francesco said his father was also a volunteer prison visitor and regularly raised money for charity through his church.

Mr Francis’s nephew, Clifton Nicholson, said: “To those who came to the aid of the family, and the emergency services, we are so grateful to them.”

Mrs Lake gave a short, narrative conclusion that Mr Francis died in a fire that he started.

READ MORE: Tributes paid to man killed in bungalow blaze in Great Hockham, near Thetford

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