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Inquest into death of Judith Tucker in Walshaw House fire finds flame retardant bedding wasn't used

By Luke May

A bedridden woman who died in a fire did not use flame-retardant bedding she had been given just weeks before.

Judith Tucker died in December after a fire broke out in her Walshaw House maisonnette in Maidstone.

An inquest today heard the accidental blaze was most likely started by the flame of a tea candle either on, or in the area around, her bed.

Judith Tucker died in a fire at Walshaw House, Maidstone on December 18
Judith Tucker died in a fire at Walshaw House, Maidstone on December 18

Today's inquest heard the grandmother, who had had her leg amputated from the knee down in 2014, had received a safety visit from Kent Fire and Rescue Service on December 4 - two weeks before she died.

Carers from Accessible Care had contacted KFRS to book the visit as they were concerned she would not make it out of the house if there was a fire.

The inquest heard the 69-year-old used a hospital bed in the ground floor living room of her maisonette.

During the visit, home safety officer Danielle Jolly discovered cigarette burn marks on bedding and on the carpet around Mrs Tucker's bed.

KMTV reported on the incident last December

The inquest heard Mrs Tucker smoked up to 20 cigarettes a day in her bed, had tea candles lit on a table which lay across her and had a can of lighter fluid in a bedside cabinet.

Mrs Jolly applied flame retardant spray to the carpet and gave Mrs Tucker flame proof bedding, but this was never used.

Family at the inquest said they were not aware Mrs Tucker had been given the bedding.

Assistant coroner Katrina Hepburn is set to ask Accessible Care why the bedding was never applied.

She said: "Because the bed covers weren't on the bed, I do think it's important to find out if they weren't put on after they were requested to be, or if Mrs Tucker had not asked anyone to change it."

Flowers left outside Judith Tucker's home
Flowers left outside Judith Tucker's home

However the care company, based at Granville House in Maidstone, stated its carers were not responsible for changing Mrs Tucker's bedsheets.

Firefighters recovered the bedding from inside the flat and it was unscathed.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service received a 999 call at 10.24pm from Mrs Tucker's landline. She told an operator there was a fire and she needed help as she was disabled and only had one leg.

The call cut out before she could give any more information, the inquest heard. Neighbours had tried to rescue Mrs Tucker from the fire, but were unsuccessful.

One managed to get inside the maisonette, but found the flames were too high and ran back outside.

Firefighters discovered Mrs Tucker dead on arrival. A post mortem gave the medical cause of death as smoke inhalation.

KFRS station manager Daniel Upton told the inquest the fire started too quickly to be caused by a cigarette butt.

Ms Hepburn concluded the inquest, ruling Mrs Tucker's death was accidental.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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