‘Tragic’ death of teen

House fire on Wakefield Road Pontefract, in which a body was pulled from the property.
House fire on Wakefield Road Pontefract, in which a body was pulled from the property.

A CORONER has described the death of a Pontefract teenager in a derelict house blaze as a “total tragedy”.

The body of Bradley Birkitt, 18, was pulled from an abandoned property on Wakefield Road, Pontefract, last August after flames ripped through the attic space.

An inquest into the teenager’s death at Wakefield Coroner’s Court on Wednesday could not conclude whether the fire was accidental or deliberate.

Giving evidence, Anthony Lancaster, coroner’s officer, confirmed Mr Birkitt had moved into a bedsit on Wakefield Road, just yards from the derelict house, on August 14.

He said according to Mr Birkitt’s medical records, recent visits to his GP said he was depressed and had a history of “self-harming”.

In the days before his death, Mr Birkitt had meetings with a crisis team because he “couldn’t see any point to his life” and was “having thoughts of harming himself.”

In a statement read out at the inquest, Mr Birkitt’s mother, Samantha, said: “I don’t think Bradley intended to take his own life.

“What confuses me is that his bedsit was unlocked and he had also left his phone which he never did. I’m not entirely convinced he entered the derelict house on his own, he was afraid of the dark.”

In evidence, Christopher Clarke, station manager of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters were called to the derelict building at around 3.25am on August 15.

Mr Birkitt’s body was found under a mattress in the attic and an investigation into the cause of the fire concluded a naked flame – possibly a match – started the blaze.

Det Insp Anna Tomlinson, of Wakefield CID, said inquiries were made into whether Mr Birkitt was alone at the time of the fire.

She said: “It’s impossible to find out if he was with anyone. It’s possible he went into the house and other people were there, it has been derelict for many years and I know Bradley had been in the house before.

“It’s possible he realised he couldn’t get into his flat, which has two doors, because he didn’t have his keys, and thought ‘I know there’s a derelict house with a mattress where I can put my head down.

“I’ll never know what was going through Bradley’s mind unfortunately. There’s no evidence to suggest any suspicious circumstances. It’s very difficult to say whether it was deliberate or not.”

Recording an open verdict, Melanie Williamson, deputy coroner, said: “It’s believed the cause of the fire was the ignition of a match, which was lit either by Bradley himself, or possibly by a third party.

“It could not be determined whether the ignition was an accident or deliberate and it’s impossible to say one way or the other and it was concluded the death wasn’t suspicious.

“It’s quite possible there was more than one person at the house at the time. I regret to say it’s not possible to say it’s non suspicious, it’s not even possible to say it was deliberate.

“It’s a total tragedy to have to listen to evidence like this when they are so young, with their whole lives ahead of them.”