Dorset hairdresser died in mystery car explosion

Jennifer Mitchell
Image caption Police said Jennifer Mitchell's death appeared to be a "tragic accident"

The cause of an explosion which killed a hairdresser in her car remains a mystery, an inquest has heard.

Jennifer Mitchell, 19, of Shaftesbury, had been carrying peroxide products when her car burst into flames at Stalbridge Common, Dorset, on 9 March.

But recording an open verdict, the coroner ruled out that these had caused the explosion.

He said other hair care products or a fault in the car may have sparked the fire when she lit a cigarette.

'Muffled explosion'

The hearing in Dorchester heard that Miss Mitchell had split up with her fiancee the day before after she admitted being unfaithful.

They had been living in a caravan where the teenager had returned to collect her belongings.

Shortly after leaving in her Mini Cooper witnesses described hearing an explosion and seeing smoke.

Construction worker Jan Kaczowka was working at a nearby house.

In a statement read to the inquest, he said: "I heard a sound which I had never heard before. It sounded like a muffled explosion, like the sound of a bursting tyre.

"The driver and passenger windows were open and flames were riding out."

Fellow worker Pawel Kubala said he ran up to the car but could not open its door.

"The car was still burning fiercely, as if it was drenched in something from the inside," he said.

Hair care products

The inquest heard evidence from forensic scientist Darryl Manners who said there was no obvious reason for the car to explode.

He said he could not rule out a leaking fuel pipe although he said the vehicle was relatively new so this was unlikely.

He concluded there must have been an explosion within the seating area where there had been bottles and cans of hair care products.

He said for them to explode there must have been some sort of leakage and the vapour ignited by a flame or spark.

Coroner Mr Johnston ruled out any suspicious circumstances.

He added: "The triggering factor, the ignition, may well have been Jenny lighting a cigarette but it may well be operating a switch, which let out a spark causing an explosion, but we will never know that.

"As a result, I am not able to reach a conclusion that is meaningful."

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