A WOMAN who had been smoking in her living room died after her clothing caught fire, an inquest has heard.

Kathleen Ann Hargreaves, who was found by her husband, died as a result of the injuries she suffered in the fire which took hold in her Essex Street home in Barnoldswick on December 19.

A joint police and fire investigation which took place immediately after Mrs Hargreaves’ body was found ruled that the fire had either been sparked by a dropped cigarette or by a naked flame, such as a lighter, igniting her clothes.

The inquest at Burnley Magistrates Court heard how the 78-year-old, who was born in Accrington, had been alone in her home and had been suffering with her memory in months running up to her death.

Speaking at the inquest, family said she had started to ‘throw lit cigarettes’ onto the table in front of her and would often light up a second forgetting she already had one lit.

Michael Angland, an investigator for the fire service, said: “It was a very localised fire involving only Mrs Hargreaves and the immediate area around her and it was very slow burning.

“Mrs Hargreaves was a heavy smoker and there was lots of smoking material on a table which had been in front of her as she sat on the sofa – lighters, matches, cigarette butts.

“We don’t know for sure how she managed to set fire to her clothing, if it was with a cigarette or with a naked flame that then caught on to her clothing – but it was something connected to smoking and cigarettes.”

The inquest also heard how Mr and Mrs Hargreaves had been refereed to Adult Services by family members who were concerned about them, but the pair were reluctant to take any help.

Two days before her death, Mrs Hargreaves agreed to start using a ‘telecare’ device – a buzzer to alert services to any problems she may be experiencing at home.

East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor said: “I will record that this was an accidental death.

"How exactly it happened we will never know - it could have been that she discarded the cigarette or lit fire to her clothes.

“Kathleen Anne Hargreaves died at Essex Street on December 19 from injuries sustained in a fire at her home.”