In­quest hears bar­ris­ter died af­ter clut­ter caught fire in ‘un­tidy’ flat

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Caro­line Davies

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.”

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