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First Irish case of death by spontaneous combustion

A man who burned to death in his home died as a result of spontaneous combustion, an Irish coroner has ruled.

It is believed to be the first case of its kind in Ireland.

West Galway coroner Dr Ciaran McLoughlin said it was the first time in 25 years of investigating deaths that he had returned such a verdict.

Michael Flaherty , 76, died at his home at Clareview Park, Ballybane, Galway on 22 December 2010.

An inquest in Galway on Thursday heard how investigators were baffled as to how he had died.

Forensic experts found that a fire in the fireplace of the sitting room where the badly-burnt body was found was not the cause of the blaze that killed Mr Faherty.

The court was told that no trace of an accelerant had been found and there was nothing to suggest foul play.

The court heard that Mr Faherty was found lying on his back with his head closest to an open fireplace.

The fire had been confined to the sitting room. The only damage was to the body, which had been totally burnt, the ceiling above him and the floor underneath him.

Dr McLoughlin said he had consulted medical textbooks and carried out other research in an attempt to find an explanation.

He said Professor Bernard Knight, in his book on forensic pathology, had written about spontaneous combustion and noted that such reported cases were almost always near an open fireplace or chimney.

“This fire was thoroughly investigated and I’m left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation,” he said