Man Dies in a Gas Explosion After Battle with Mental Illness

William Kellogg
June 20, 2019

A 48-year-old man, James Kirkby was found dead on the top of a pile of rubble as a result of a blast that destroyed his home in Launcelot Close on December 27 last year, hours after he texted his ex-partner “goodbye.”  The Emergency units were called to King Arthur’s Way to the reports of an explosion at around 2.30am, where it was found that Mr. Kirkby’s house, a home for vulnerable adults, had been destroyed by fire while another was severely damaged.

An inquest into Mr. Kirkby’s death at the Winchester Coroner’s Court was told that an investigation was carried out, and investigators discovered that he had cut through a pipe feeding to a boiler using a hacksaw blade before lighting a cigarette, which investigator DC Chris Philips thinks may have been “the source of ignition”.  The 48-year-old had suffered a history of depression and alcohol dependency and was being seen by professionals in different mental health services.  In a statement released, sister Selina said that James mental health worsened after the end of his relationship with Jasmin Coombs, the mother of his daughter Daisy, earlier in 2018.

She further stated: “I was worried about his mental health. James had started consuming large volumes of alcohol in the months before his death.

 He could not go to work as a taxi driver due to his drinking and mental health. He was seriously struggling to cope with life.”

The inquest was told that on one a particular occasion, he said to his mother that he was “going to go and not come back.”

Few months before his death, Mr. Kirkby had appointments at St Mary’s Surgery to discuss his mental health and his anti-depressant prescription with the therapist but said he was “feeling better and generally feeling OK.”

On the Day of Christmas, which was two days before the explosion, Mr. Kirkby had been to Miss Coomb’s house where he played with her three children, and on Boxing Day, went to see friend Neil Allen.  On the same day, James had found out that his friend Simon Mace, and Jasmin’s mother’s partner, had died in a hospice. In the wee hours of December 27, he had called a Coleen Coombs, and was said to be “inaudible,” but he didn’t seem y9 be intoxicated, the inquest heard.

He went on to text his daughter, Jasmin saying: “Goodbye Jasmin, you need to be there for your mum or don’t.”  The post-mortem results revealed that Mr. Kirkby suffered blast injuries from the gas explosion, and a toxicology test found that he had 166 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood – which is an overdose as compared to the 80milligramme limit for drink driving.

Senior coroner Grahame Short concluded that Mr. Kirkby died as a result of suicide, adding: “I do accept that on some occasions when he had used threats or had taken an accidental overdose, he may have wanted to manipulate Miss Coombs and others.

William Kellogg

William Kellogg is a veteran writer who's covered the subject of the intersection of technology, health and mental wellness for nearly two decades.

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