Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Andover fatal house blast: James Kirkby 'blew himself up'

Collapsed building Image copyright PA
Image caption The house was reduced to rubble in the explosion

An alcoholic father-of-three blew himself up in a halfway house for vulnerable adults after the death of a friend and the end of a relationship, an inquest has heard.

The house in Andover, Hampshire, was destroyed in a gas explosion of 27 December.

The body of James Kirkby, 48, was found in the wreckage in the rear garden of the property.

Hampshire coroner Grahame Short recorded a conclusion of suicide.

Image copyright Jasmin Coombs
Image caption James Kirkby's body was found in the wreckage of the end-of-terrace house

The explosion at the three-storey end-of-terrace house in Launcelot Close happened shortly after 02:30 GMT.

The building had "completely collapsed sideways" with bricks and Christmas decorations strewn across the road, the inquest in Winchester heard.

The wall of the neighbouring property also collapsed.

Mr Kirkby was found dead from blast injuries on top of rubble behind the house, the inquest was told.

Image copyright PA
Image caption An emergency cordon was placed around the property

Mr Kirkby, who had been diagnosed with depression and alcohol dependency, had made three previous suicide attempts, the coroner heard.

A relationship with the mother of one of his three daughters, Jasmin Coombs, had ended several months previously.

She told the hearing Mr Kirkby was "so happy... dancing with the children" at her house on Christmas Day.

On Boxing Day, a few hours before the explosion, his close friend died in a hospice, the inquest heard.

Mr Short said Mr Kirkby had been drinking for several hours before his death and alcohol was a factor in his "deliberate" decision to end his life.

"No-one else was present, fortunately, within the building and I don't believe he would have done this with others present," he added.

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