Inquest resumes into house fire deaths in Cornwall

Patricia Philpotts was killed in the fire in January 2010 Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police

The inquest has resumed into the deaths of a mother and her son in a house fire in Cornwall that happened in January 2010. The blaze was thought to have been started by a mentally ill relative.

Patricia Philpotts died in the blaze in January 2010, while her son, Ben, was pronounced dead in hospital having been rescued from the fire. He had suffered facial injuries, thought to have been caused by a sledgehammer, which rendered him unable to escape.

Harold Philpotts, Mrs Philpotts' estranged husband and father to 10-year-old Ben, was seen fleeing the building shortly after the fire took hold, and was later taken to hospital suffering from burns. He died, eight days later, by which time police had already made him chief suspect.

It was believed an accelerant was used in the blaze at the dormer bungalow in Trevarrian. Mr Philpotts was said to have walked calmly from the blaze, smelling strongly of petrol. He was seriously injured when he was apprehended by police nearby, an hour after the fire started.

Mr Philpotts had a history of mental illness, having previously been sectioned. He was convinced medics and members of his family were plotting to kill him. He also travelled to various hospitals to get repeatedly tested for HIV, following an affair several years earlier. He refused to believe his test was negative, the inquest in Truro heard.

But experts said that despite Mr Philpotts' increasingly chaotic behaviour, there was no reason to section him or believe that he would pose a risk to his family. His social worker, David Alexander, said the behaviour was not "a precursor to tragedy".

He said: "At no time did I have any concerns for their safety because at no time did he say he wanted to harm them - rather the opposite."