Cause of Powys farmhouse fire which killed father and five children 'unexplained'

Gypsy Raine, four, Patch Raine, six, Misty Raine, 9, Reef Raine, 10 and Just Raine, 11 all died in the fire. (From clockwise top left.) Credit: Athena Picture Agency

An investigation into a Powys farmhouse fire which killed a father and his five of his children has failed to find what caused the blaze, an inquest has heard.

Dave Cuthbertson, 68, died in the fire alongside children Just Raine, 11, Reef Raine, 10, Misty Raine, nine, Patch Raine, six, and Gypsy Raine, four.

The fire took hold of the remote Poityn Farm near Llangammarch Wells on October 30 2017.

The hearing today, in Welshpool, was told the fire may have begun when embers fell from a logburner - but there were "a number of possible sources" for the blaze.

Powys coroner Andrew Barkley said the exact cause of that fire is as yet unexplained.

The fire started in the lounge but what I cannot say is what caused that fire to start. Foul play remains a possibility. Reef, Misty, Just, David, Gypsy and Patch each died of the inhalation of fire fumes. The individuals that I’ve named died from the effects of the inhalation of fire fumes following a fire at their family home. The exact cause of that fire is as yet unexplained.

Andrew Barkley, coroner
The farmhouse in Llangammarch Wells Credit: ITV Wales

Three children Leaf, 13, Blue, 12, and Farr, 11, survived after escaping the fire and ran to a neighbours house where they raised the alarm.

David Cuthbertson died in the fire with his five children. Credit: South Wales Police/ Family photo

A fire investigator told the inquest there were a number of objects found in the ruins of Poityn Farm including cigarette lighters, candle holders, and hundreds of metres of electrical wires which had been "daisy-chained".

Richard Hancock, manager of the fire investigation team at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue, said extension blocks could overheat and ignite if added to an original block.

Given the degree of destruction in the room of origin and accounts placing the fire in the ground floor lounge, it was very difficult to identify one particular item as being the cause of the fire. Electricity does still remain a possible cause of ignition.

Richard Hancock, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue
Flowers left close to the scene in Llangammarch Wells, Powys. Credit: PA

One of Mr Cutherbertson's children had suggested that the house smelled of gas in the lead up to the blaze.

But the inquest was told that investigators have ruled out a gas leak as the cause of the fire, as they would have expected to see an "explosion more than a fire".

The inquest was told copper pipes on a radiator had melted, meaning the temperature inside the farmhouse during the blaze would have exceeded 1,085 degrees.

Firefighters who attended the blaze were unable to enter the property due to a combination of extreme heat and risk of collapse.

Roger Smith, crew manager of the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service appliance which first responded to the emergency, said the farmhouse was "fully on fire".

The property was fully ablaze. You couldn't make out any of the external structure of the property. It was incredibly hot. You couldn't go anywhere near the windows. Where they were broken the blast of heat was intense.

Roger Smith, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service

Dyfed-Powys Police told the inquest they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Detective Inspector Adam Ellis said a "number of enquiries" were still to be made.

Police have not seen evidence of any involvement by a third party, but they could not rule out the possibility of "foul play".

Following today's inquest, Dyfed Powys Police said that they hoped the hearing had brought "some answers and an element of peace to the family".

Our deepest sympathies are with the family and all those affected by this truly tragic and harrowing incident. In the early hours of Monday October 30 2017, a horrific fire engulfed the house at Pointyn Farm, Llangammarch Wells, and police officers and the fire service were faced with extremely challenging conditions at the scene in the days and weeks following the incident. The nature of the fire was so intense, the scene presented significant difficulties in respect of the recovery of remains and took considerable time. But the family were our absolute priority from the very beginning, and the dignified and respectful recovery of all the deceased within the property was always the focus of our endeavours. This is why we worked tirelessly at the scene which was complex and perilous. Despite the heart-breaking outcome of the incident, the effective method that all agencies worked together, during the response to the fire and in its aftermath, is a testament to the hard work and dedication of each agency’s staff and volunteers – and I thank them all sincerely. I hope that the inquest has provided some answers and an element of peace to the family, and my thoughts and prayers are very much with them. >

Chief Superintendent Tony Brown, Dyfed-Powys Police

The family thanked the emergency services for their "hard work and dedication".

We as a family would like to once again thank all the emergency services for the hard work and dedication throughout the past year and we thank the public for their continued support. We request that we are left alone now to come to terms with the tragedy.

Family statement

A fundraising page to raise money for the family has now raised more than £23,500.