Rent debts drove Doncaster man to blaze death suicide

Serious rent arrears prompted a Doncaster man to kill himself by setting fire to his caravan hours before the bailiffs came to evict him.

The flames from several litres of turpentine burned themselves out but when the bailiffs and police broke into the static mobile home on a site at Moorends they found Anthony Atkin had died from the soot he had breathed in.

The 54-year-old left a note outside the caravan on the Mount Pleasant site off Bloomhill Road, Moorends, explaining his intention, a Doncaster inquest heard.

Mr Atkin, a former construction worker, owned his home but had allowed substantial debts on the plot rent and council tax to build up because he thought he was going to die from cancer, the coroner was told.

His lifelong friend, Dave Wilson, who lives on the same site, said he was aware of the eviction situation but thought Mr Atkin, a widower, was ‘sorting it out’ with the council.

Mr Wilson said his friend “had got cancer some time ago and he had it in his head he was going to die. He wasn’t working and he didn’t pay his council tax.

“When he beat cancer the problem came up with the council. Somebody from the council told me it was a fair amount he owed. If he’d got a problem he would keep it to himself.”

Council staff, bailiffs and the police attended Mr Atkin’s caravan on January 16 to carry out the eviction but got no answer to their knocks so forced entry.

When they went inside all of the interior was covered in soot and there was an overpowering toxic smell, said Det Con Simon Pocklington.

Mr Atkin’s body was found slumped on his bed and an autopsy showed the soot in his airways had deprived him of oxygen.

A suicide note addressed to Mr Wilson was found outside the property and Pc Vicky Allen said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Station Manager Cath Toovey, a South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue fire investigator, said up to four litres of turps had been used to deliberately start fires in the kitchen and porch but because all the doors were closed they had been starved of oxygen and had self-extinguished after a few minutes.

Mr Atkin was said to have had a history of anxiety and depression but had not see his GP for three years.

Doncaster Deputy Coroner Fred Curtis, recording a conclusion of suicide, said it was likely the fire had taken place in the hours before his death and it was clear he had used an accelerant in several places to start the fires.

“He appears to have been concerned about a debt to the local authority. For a long time he appears to have ignored this debt and eventually the council decided formal action had to be taken.

“On the day he was found there was an attendance at the property for eviction in connection with the outstanding liability.

“There was something that was clearly troubling him to the extent that he left a note that leaves me in no doubt that he had planned to take his own life, and the matter troubling him was the debt to the council.

“He had had an unhappy life and had reached a point where he did not consider it was worth living. I am not sure if he intended the property would go up in flames or not.”