Recluse died in desperate attempt to escape inferno

A Forensics team along with the Fire  and Police services attend the scene of the fatal house fire

A Forensics team along with the Fire and Police services attend the scene of the fatal house fire

A NEWTOWNBUTLER man who made a desperate attempt to escape his blazing home was found dead behind an open front door, an inquest has heard.

James Murray, who lived in a small cul de sac on the Clones Road, was so badly burned that he could only be identified using his dental records.


An autopsy of the 60-year-old revealed he had died from smoke inhalation after the inferno ripped through his property last October.

The initial findings by a Fire Investigation Officer reported the cause of the fire to be 80 per cent electrical and 20% undetermined. However, this was ruled out during the inquest following evidence from a neighbour.

Mr Murray, who was known as Jimmy to his neighbours, lived a very reclusive life following the breakdown of his marriage in 2001 which resulted in years of daily binge drinking.

He would often drink up to three litres of cider and a bottle of brandy a day and wouldn’t allow any visitors in to his home for almost 12 years.

Giving evidence in court his neighbour and friend of 30 years Michael Jones was alerted to the fire on October 21 last year when he heard crackling noises shortly after 6am.

He said: “I went outside and saw Jimmy’s house on fire so I rang my other neighbour for help and went to the house which was up in flames and the roof had collapsed in.

“When we saw the front door open we thought he had got out and escaped as he never used the front door in a long time, he always used a side door to get in and out of the house.


“I looked for him outside but couldn’t see him anywhere.

“I have known him since he moved in with his family in the 1970s but after the break-up of his marriage and family Jimmy lost interest in everything.

“He would ring almost every morning asking us to buy him alcohol, sometimes I didn’t answer because it was too early.”

Mr Jones was one of the last people to see Jimmy alive after bringing him his daily dose of drink.

Jimmy, who was born in Roslea and worked as a plasterer, was plagued by a number of health problems including asthma and diabetes.

It was heard during court that he used an old portable gas cylinder to heat his home.

Evidence from forensic science officer Kenneth Arnold claimed the fire may have started in the living room or the bedroom, however he were unable to determine the cause of the fire. A number of possible scenarios were explored by the forensic team but it was recorded as inconclusive.

Jimmy’s estranged daughter Fiona Murray also appeared at the inquest to help shed some light on her father’s life prior to the family separating.

She described a family life tormented by her father’s addiction to alcohol. She said: “The last I saw of him was in 1999 on Christmas Day when we were all home and there was an alcohol related incident. A decision was made by us to all leave the house for good.

“He was very volatile, unpredictable and aggressive when he took drink.”

Coroner James Kitson recorded his cause of death as smoke inhalation saying: “This was a tragic accident and I extend my sympathies to his family.”

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