Elderly couple die in car explosion ‘suicide pact’ days after house flooding

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A married couple killed themselves in a car explosion "suicide pact", an inquest has heard.

The bodies of 71-year-olds Paul and Susan Dickinson were discovered in their car days after a "traumatic event" left the home they had lived in for 45 years flooded, Staffordshire Live reports.

An investigation found their vehicle was set alight using a flammable liquid and a lighter or a match in Cotes Heath near Stafford, Staffordshire.

South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh has delivered a double suicide verdict at the inquest following the tragedy on August 15.

Fire service investigator Luke Beckett said: "In this particular case, the likely source of ignition would be a naked flame, either a lighter or a match. The fire was ignited from within the vehicle inside the garage at the rear of the cottage. The fire then spread to involve the structure of the garage and its contents."

It is believed Mr Dickinson was in the driver's seat. His wife – who had epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, asthma and breast cancer – was in the front passenger seat.

The inquest heard the couple had been forced to move out of their home on August 12, returning to the property for the first time on the day of their deaths.

Mr Haigh said: "Their property was badly flooded by heavy rain and they had to move out.

"On August 15, they returned to the property although it is unlikely they were able to live there again for a considerable amount of time.

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"They had hired a vehicle which they parked in front of a skip on the drive of the property. In that vehicle, they left notes, including a note signed by both of them which can be described as a suicide note."

He went on: "They then entered the garage and got into their own vehicle, which was not working due to the flooding, and set fire to it.

"The noise was detected by neighbours across the road. The emergency services attended and ultimately they were found dead in that vehicle in the garage."

Both Mr and Mrs Dickinson died as a consequence of being exposed to the fire.

The coroner added: "The fire is likely to have been caused by something being deliberately ignited inside that car while both deceased were seated in the car.

"They appear to be willing participants in their deaths and it is described as a suicide pact.

"It’s what they both sadly wanted and I am content, on the balance of probabilities, that the deaths can both be described as suicide."

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

  • Inquests

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