Mayo-born pensioner died after accidentally igniting his clothes

John Nolan suffered severe burns on 65% of his body after lighting a cigarette – coroner

A Mayo-born pensioner who died after being found in flames on the street in North London accidentally ignited his clothing while lighting a cigarette, a coroner has concluded.

John Nolan’s death near his flat in Tottenham last September prompted an appeal by the Metropolitan Police when they were unable initially to explain what had occurred.

However, coroner Andrew Walker concluded on Tuesday that the retired construction worker, 70, originally from Swinford, died as a result of "accidental ignition of clothing".

“It’s likely that Mr Nolan accidentally set his clothes on fire whilst lighting a cigarette,” Mr Walker told North London Coroner’s Court.


The Irishman, who was found with a pack of cigarettes and two lighters, suffered “severe” burns on 65 per cent of his body after being alight for about six minutes.

The coroner agreed with the police’s ultimate conclusion that Mr Nolan did not ignite himself deliberately, there was no one else involved and a flammable liquid did not aid the fire.

Instead it was a “really tragic accident” aided by his lack of mobility, he said.

Mr Nolan, who emigrated to London from Swinford, Co Mayo, in the 1960s, took a stroll alone on September 17th, having been with his carer brother Jimmy. They had planned to follow the All-Ireland Football final.

But at around 1pm, the Metropolitan Police were called to reports of a fire near Williams House in Orchard Place.

Passers-by tried to extinguish the flames and Mr Nolan was airlifted to Broomfield Hospital, in Chelmsford, Essex, where he died the following day. His brother and sister, Mary Caffrey, were with him.

After the inquest, John Nolan's nephew Kevin Byrne said the family agreed with the conclusion and it brought them some comfort.

"It's been a very painful case for the family," said the 32-year-old journalist, who lives in Co Wicklow. "But hopefully the verdict appears to have brought a bit of closure."