A BELOVED grandad died in a fire that he started after being left alone for just 40 minutes.

Retired bus driver Stephen Burke, who was fighting depression, rolled the carpet over behind the door to prevent it being opened and set light to the room, an inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court heard.

Assistant coroner Sarah Watson praised the dignity of the family who told how Mr Burke's wife and two sons had gone shopping, leaving all the doors and windows locked at the family home in Meadowside Avenue, Tonge Fold, save for the first-floor bedroom windows.

They returned 40 minutes later to find the fire brigade at the house. Mr Burke died of breathing in smoke after the fire engulfed the bedroom of his home.

Wife of 49 years Lorna Burke told the inquest: “In the days preceding this he had been fine. It was only 40 minutes we had been gone. He was good, he was fine.”

Eleven family members attended the inquest and Sarah Watson, assistant coroner, praised their “support and respect ” as she recorded a conclusion of suicide.

She said: “The whole family has shown its support, but Mrs Burke, you have shown respect for yourself and your husband in a way I have barely seen before.

“You have all come out in force and assisted in some way. It is a testament to yourselves and to this process. I’m grateful to you all and I offer you my most sincere condolences.”

The court heard how father of six Mr Burke had a history of chronic pain, depression and had previously overdosed on painkillers. He maintained that these overdoses were “only to manage the pain he experienced in his lower back and abdominal area”.

The 66-year-old, described by family as a “loving dad and husband” was admitted to Beech ward at Royal Bolton Hospital under the Mental Health Act following an overdose on February 22

He remained on the ward for 28 days until he was discharged to receive home-based follow-up care, and again subsequently discharged.

But after the family went out on May 29, the fire broke out. Neighbour Simon Lomax called the fire service shortly after 2pm. Crews used ladders to get upstairs, smashing through the back bedroom window to gain entry.

Fire investigation watch manager Michael Broadley said: “The door leading into the master bedroom was jammed. We had to use force to gain entry. It appears the carpet had been turned over and that prevented the door from opening. It looked deliberate.

“The origin of the fire was near the bedroom door. There were a number of smoking materials found, including lighters.”

The fire investigation ruled out accelerants, electrical faults and smoking materials as the cause of the blaze.

Ms Watson said: “The doors inside had been locked, there was an igniter usually kept in the kitchen, the closed bedroom door, which had the carpet pulled back. We also had family photographs usually in a drawer next to the bed. We had the ruling out of electrical faults, accelerants and other non-self-generated methods of fire.

“I’m satisfied he did the deliberate act of setting alight the fire and due to his history and the recent overdose of chronic pain killers, I’m satisfied that it was suicide.”

Ms Watson urged Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Trust and Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Royal Bolton Hospital, to ensure documentation is completed and carried out, and to maintain detailed, accurate records.

She said: “It has not been an easy conclusion to find because we have heard Mr Burke’s mood was improved. As far as anyone could see, there was nothing really suspect.”

If you are anyone you know are going through a difficult time and need to talk, the Samaritans are there to help. Call 116123 from any phone or visit their website www.samaritans.co.uk. It is free and someone is always there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.