Inquest hears barrister died after clutter caught fire in ‘untidy’ flat
A senior criminal barrister who was “notoriously untidy” died after piles of paper in his cluttered London flat caught fire, an inquest has heard.
Firefighters found Ian Paton, 66, unconscious in his bedroom on 20 December. There was evidence of a small blaze around a halogen stove.
In a written statement to Southwark coroner’s court, the barrister’s former wife, Elizabeth Paton, said: “He was notoriously untidy. He was by far the most untidy man most people ever met. His flat was too much of a mess to be conducive to work in.” He was also someone who found it difficult to sleep after working long hours, she added.
Barry Kent, a fire brigade investigator, said firefighters had found the riverside flat littered with papers and files and that Paton was lying near the bedroom door. Burn patterns indicated the fire had started in or around the hob and spread over paper, then to a chair and other “stuff on the floor”, Kent said.
A postmortem showed the lawyer, who also sat as a crown court recorder, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning hastened by heart disease. Blood tests showed he had alcohol at a level 1.5 times over the legal drink-drive limit and traces of a sleeping pill, Zopiclone.
His former wife said her husband “was not a regular drinker, and rarely has he ever drank in my company” but noted his death was a few days before Christmas which would have coincided with “festive lunches” where drinking was common.
The assistant coroner Shanta Deonarine concluded he died as a result of an accident, with cause of death recorded as carbon monoxide poisoning.
In a tribute read to the court, Paton’s former wife said they had recently reconciled five years after their divorce, and he was planning to give notice to his chambers and was looking forward to working part-time from her Wiltshire cottage. “Ian’s death, coming when it did, has robbed him of so much anticipated and planned happiness. It has left Alexandra, my daughter, and me utterly bereft.”