Man found dead in house six hours after fire is put out

Scene of house fire in Wellogate Place, Hawick where a man died after firemen overlooked a cupboard in which the man's body was eventually found.
Scene of house fire in Wellogate Place, Hawick where a man died after firemen overlooked a cupboard in which the man's body was eventually found.

INVESTIGATIONS have begun after the body of a man was discovered in his Hawick home – more than six hours after firefighters extinguished a blaze at the property.

Firefighters put out the flames at the ground floor flat in Wellogate Place shortly before 8am on Sunday, but a search failed to find anyone.

After worried relatives and police were unable to locate occupier James Patterson, another search after 2pm discovered the 50-year-old under a pile of clothes in a cupboard.

A Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue spokeswoman described the circumstances of the incident as “unusual” and “tragic”. She said: “We express our condolences to the family.

“When we were called to attend the fire shortly before 7am, there was no report of anybody being in the property.”

The spokeswoman said the fire was well developed by the time firefighters arrived, but there did not seem to be anyone in the property.

“The windows were blown out which suggest there was a very high temperature inside the house,” she went on.

“It was a severe fire which took around an hour to extinguish. It was not until police officers visited neighbouring addresses and the family could not contact the deceased man that they believed he was still inside.

“We came back at 2.30pm to undertake hot strikes, which we do after a serious fire, where we go round neighbouring properties making sure they’re aware of the incident and check smoke alarms.

“The man was found in a cupboard under clothing. It was a very unusual set of circumstances.

“There shall be further inquiries into the incident but the cause of death of the man is still unknown.”

Upstairs neighbour Norman Dickson was awoken by his wife on Sunday morning who said there was a “funny smell” in the air.

He added: “I couldn’t smell anything but then I heard banging on the door and a man was saying there was a fire downstairs and to get out.

“Just as we got out the fire brigade arrived. They went in and after a while they gave the place the all-clear.

“It’s just unbelievable, a complete tragedy.”

It is believed Mr Patterson, a divorced father of two who had lived at the property for more than 12 years, kept poor health.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesperson said: “There are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire and enquiries into the incident are continuing.”