'Extreme hoarders' found dead in each other's arms in Tooting, inquest hears
The bodies of an elderly couple - described as "extreme hoarders" - were found wrapped in each other’s arms after a house fire, an inquest has heard.
Abdullah Shaibie, 75, and his partner Brigida Aro, also 75, died after the blaze broke out in their flat in Coverton Road, Tooting, on May 2 this year.
Fire investigator Jacqueline McConochie, told the inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court, the flat was "absolutely full of clutter" and said it was almost impossible to tell what the function of each room was.
The flat was full of tea lights and candles the elderly couple used to light their home after a blown fuse knocked out their electricity.
Fire was initially reported by a passer-by, just before 9.30pm on May 2, who smelt burning plastic and saw thick smoke pouring from a blown out second floor window.
Four fire engines were called to the scene but the blaze raged for an hour until it was finally brought under control.
Firefighters had to break the front door down and were confronted by "piles and piles" of clothes, books, papers, boxes and other combustible materials.
The fire broke out in a first floor landing and spread up the stairs to the main bedroom where the couple were found in their bed, wrapped in each other’s arms and "clinging" to one other.
Ms McConochie believed the lack of smoke alarm, added to the presence of so much combustible material, was also a contributing factor to the speed at which the fire broke.
Despite the blown fuse and lack of apparent lighting, Miss Aro was found with a money belt containing "thousands of pounds", most of which had been destroyed.
The couple were well known by neighbours and also to social services.
A year before their death a neighbour telephoned social services anonymously to relay their concerns but the couple ignored all attempts at contact.
Mr Shaibie and Miss Aro had been in a relationship for more than 30 years, though had not married.
Mr Shaibie, born in Malaysia, came to the UK in 1959 and worked as a jeweller.
He married in 1961 and had two children, Faisal and Jasmine, but the marriage ended soon afterwards.
Ms Aro was born in the Philippines.
She arrived in the UK in 1973 and worked as a jeweller and a catering assistant.
Dr Fiona Wilcox, sitting on Tuesday, December 3, gave a verdict of accidental fire death.
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: "London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “It’s really important that everyone has at least one working smoke alarm and test it regularly as it gives you an earlier warning if you do have a fire in your home.
"If you are concerned that your home may be at risk of fire or know someone who you think needs our help then please arrange a free home fire safety visit.”
Smoke detectors can be installed for free by the London Fire Brigade.
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