Trapped man choked to death on smoke fumes

AN INQUEST into the death of a Stevenage man has found that he died from choking on smoke fumes after being locked in a storage cupboard where he was spending the night.

Daniel Body, who was 21, was allowed to sleep in the cupboard by friends who lived in the Archer Road flat next to it.

With Mr Body’s consent, the friends locked the door to prevent it from swinging open during the night. It could only be unlocked from the outside.

This prevented Mr Body from escaping after he had accidentally set fire to carpets inside with a lighter he was using to see in the dark.

Mr Body was told to ring his friends in the morning when he wanted to be let out, but they had all switched their phones to silent.

He rang the emergency services in the early hours of January 16 this year, but did not know the exact address of where he was.

Police went to the area to investigate and came across a storage cupboard with thick black smoke appearing from the cracks in the door.

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The fire service gained entry to the cupboard and pulled out Mr Body. He was taken to Lister Hospital, where he died.

The four friends of Mr Body who had been staying in the adjacent flat had initially been arrested by police on suspicion of murder. Charges were dropped against them a month later.

When questioned by police the two males, aged 19, and two females, aged 16 and 17, were said to be “shocked and distressed”.

They had given Mr Body access to the cupboard after they deemed the flat to be too full, especially as one of them was heavily pregnant.

They supplied Mr Body with pillows, a mattress and a quilt and locked him in the cupboard, which also contained plastic fishing equipment which caught alight.

Mr Body had been staying at the Stevenage Haven for homeless people, but had missed the evening’s curfew, so called on his friends to let him stay the night.

Edward Thomas, coroner for Hertfordshire, said: “It looks to be an accidental drop of the lighter which was unintentional.

“When smoke comes into a room, people can become quickly disorientated.”

Verdict: Accidental death