Fire which killed four young children in Stafford was caused by cigarette, coroner rules

A coroner has ruled that a fire which resulted in the deaths of four young children was caused by the fumes of a discarded cigarette.

The blaze happened in Sycamore Drive, in the Highfields area of Stafford in February last year. It killed siblings Riley Holt, 8, Keegan Unitt, 6, Tilly Rose Unitt, 4, and Olly Unitt, 3.

A major investigation by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service found that the blaze was likely to have started in the main bedroom.

The fire is reported to have started in the main bedroom. Credit: BPM Media

But at the inquest into the children's parents, Natalie Unitt and Christopher Moulton, disputed the findings.

The couple say they woke up to discover the fire on the landing. Ms Unitt said she "still has nightmares" but added that she struggles to recall exactly what happened on the night due to post traumatic stress.

Police and fire investigators say they noticed discrepancies in the couple's accounts of the night, both in relation to each other and to the evidence that was discovered at the property.

Credit: BPM Media

Leigh Richards, from West Midlands Fire Service, said he believed the fire had started with a discarded cigarette on the bed.

The couple admitted they had both been smoking in bed, despite an earlier warning from social care services.

Mr Richards says this is likely to have led to a 'flashover' causing everything in the main bedroom to catch fire, before spreading to the landing.

He went on to suggest that Ms Unitt had gone downstairs to get water to throw on the fire, but was unable to get back up to the bedrooms. He said she in fact appeared to have escaped through a downstairs door.

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh described the fire as a tragedy. He said: "My hope is the children died quite peacefully in their beds."

In conclusion he said the children's deaths were caused due to fumes from the fire caused by unextinguished cigarettes.