London

Beko fridge fire fault: Police inquiry into man's death

Police are to investigate the death of a man who died in a house fire caused by a faulty Beko fridge-freezer.

Santosh Benjamin-Muthiah, 36, died from a lack of oxygen in the blaze in Wealdstone, north London, in November.

The London Fire Brigade had warned Beko about a problem with some fridges in June 2010, and the company is recalling affected appliances.

A spokesman for Barnet Coroner's Court said it asked police to see if Beko was in any way responsible for the death.

The inquest said Mr Benjamin-Muthiah died of died from a lack of oxygen to the brain after inhaling fumes in the fire at his home in Grant Road.

A spokesman for the coroner said: "The fire's cause was a Beko fridge.

"We have asked the Metropolitan Police to investigate whether Beko had any culpable responsibility in this death."

A Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed Harrow CID had begun an investigation.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) said this week that up to 500,000 fridge-freezers could be affected across the country, and a blaze at a tower block on 28 June in Bermondsey, south-east London, was caused by the faulty appliance.

People who own models manufactured between January 2000 and October 2006 have been advised to check on the trading standards website to see if their appliance is affected.

The problem occurs when water gets into the defrost timer switch, which can lead to an electrical malfunction resulting in plastic components and other highly flammable insulation inside the appliance catching fire.

A Beko spokesman said it took advice from the LFB and Trading Standards and began the recall process in December 2010, six months after being told of the problem.

He added: "We decided to obtain sales records from retailers and write to consumers directly.

"Having identified which retailers we sold product to, we then contacted those retailers in February.

"We also took all the steps necessary to ensure we had replacement parts in stock, a call centre in place and a repair network ready to modify products.

"We placed the safety notice on our website in April as we started a phased rollout of the modification."

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