AN ELDERLY man described as a reclusive loner by his neighbours died yesterday following a fire in his home.
The victim was found dead inside his smoke-filled flat in Blyth, Northumberland, by police officers who had been alerted by firefighters.
Emergency services were called to the 18-flat complex in Stephen Street just after 9.30am when neighbours raised the alarm after seeing smoke coming from the property.
Firefighters forced their way into the upstairs dwelling at The Gables and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
Forensics officers from Northumbria Police and the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service launched an investigation into the death, which is not being treated as suspicious.
Neighbours said the victim had left large quantities of paper piled up inside the front door of his flat, and they described the situation as an accident waiting to happen.
The man, thought to be in his 70s or 80s, had lived alone in the flat for more than five years.
He had not been named last night as police attempted to contact next of kin.
The man kept himself to himself so much, and spoke so little with others, that his neighbours said yesterday they did not even know his name.
Salesman Paul Croft, 47, who lives in a nearby flat in The Gables, told how he was in bed when he heard the fire engines arrive at the scene.
“I went outside and there was black smoke coming out of the flat. The firemen had to smash the door down to get in.
“The man is a recluse who was very introverted, and I don’t even know his name.
“I used to go out to work about 7am and we’d usually pass each other in the passageway. I’d say hello and he would just grunt ‘Good morning’ and that was it.
“I have never seen any friends or family visit him. He smokes and always leaves a lot of paper piled inside his door, and used to have to push his way in.
“I don’t know if that had anything to do with the fire, but we’ve all said it was an accident waiting to happen. He used to go out early in the morning, come home and stay inside the flat.
“It is very sad. I’ll probably put some flowers outside his flat and go to the funeral if I can find out when it’s held, as a mark of respect.”
Jimmy Walton, 82, who has lived next door to the victim for five years, said his smoke alarm had gone off early yesterday, but he didn’t know what had caused it until other neighbours banged on his door and window at 9.30am.
“I don’t think anyone here knows his name and you hardly ever saw him. I was very sorry to hear he had died, and it was obviously some kind of accident.
“To be honest, we half expected something like this because of all the rubbish piled up inside his door.”