A PENSIONER found dead after a blaze ripped through his bungalow died before the fire started, police believe.

Christopher Proctor, 88, was discovered in the front room of his home in Pleckgate Road, Blackburn, in the early hours of Saturday, November 10.

Police have launched a murder investigation into his death, and are investigating whether he was targeted for financial reasons by members of the local community who knew he was ‘vulnerable’.

Officers have also found Mr Proctor’s bank book and wallet discarded in nearby drains, it was revealed yesterday.

Detective Superintendent Paul Withers, who is leading the investigation, said: “We believe from the post mortem that Mr Proctor had died before the fire had started. That is why at this point and with the information we have we have commenced a murder investigation.

“We don’t know how Mr Proctor died at this stage but we are working very hard to ascertain that.

“Mr Proctor was 88 and he was quite vulnerable. I think it’s fair to say that people have exploited that situation, and possibly for financial reasons.

“It is very possible Mr Proctor will have known these people and that is a line of enquiry we are pursuing, but we are keeping an open mind.

The Lancashire Telegraph was shown around the burnt out house yesterday.

The roof of the bungalow had disintergrated because of the heat of the blaze and every room had been virtually destroyed by the intense fire.

Police said they did not believe accelerants had been used in the fire, but that collections of old books and newspapers had helped it spread.

Officers have also released a CCTV image of Mr Proctor using a cash machine at Tesco in Whalley New Road at around 3pm on Friday, November 9. It is thought to be one of the last sightings of him alive.

Det Supt Withers said: “Mr Proctor was quite well known in the local community and he pottered around the local area.

“We know he came home during the early evening of Friday November 9, and we know from enquiries that at approximately 11.30pm two people arrived at the house and we know they left at approximately 2am. We also know someone has tried to use his bank card at Tesco’s in Whalley New Road at approximately 2.15am and then attempted to use the same cash card at Brownhill Post Office.

“We know from our enquiries and CCTV footage that an individual returned to the address at about 2.45am and then left at approximately 3.15am, and we know again that a short time after that fire has engulfed the premises.”

Mr Proctor’s bank book was found in a drain at the junction of Whalley New Road and Emerald Avenue at Roe Lee, and his wallet was found in a drain in Goodshaw Avenue.

n A 30-year-old woman and 38-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder have been released on bail. Six others also arrested in connection with the investigation have been released without charge.