Man killed in Cameron House Hotel fire 'was drowning in dreams'

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image captionSimon Midgley, right, had been on a winter break in Scotland with Richard Dyson, left

A man who died with his partner in a fire at a luxury hotel on Loch Lomond told his mother he was "drowning in dreams" the day before the blaze, an inquest has heard.

Simon Midgley, 32, was on a winter break with Richard Dyson, 38, when the fire engulfed Cameron House Hotel on 18 December 2017.

A coroner has ruled the men, from north London, were unlawfully killed.

It was fined £500,000 and a hotel porter was given a community payback order to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work.

The fire started after night porter Christopher O'Malley, 35, placed a plastic bag of ash in a cupboard containing kindling and newspapers.

media captionCCTV captures moment hotel fire takes hold

O'Malley admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Mr Midgley's mother Jane told the inquest in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, that her son phoned her from the hotel on 17 December 2017 saying the couple were "having a fabulous time".

She told the hearing that he had said: "I'm drowning in dreams, mother dear. And I promise you life is going to be good from now on."

Mrs Midgley, from Pudsey, Leeds, said her son also told her: "I'm so looking forward to spending Christmas with you. Don't forget my pigs-in-blankets."

image copyrightMidgley family
image captionSimon Midgley told his mother Jane he was having a fabulous time the day before the fire

Wakefield senior coroner Kevin McLoughlin expressed frustration and "puzzlement" that he had not been granted access to thousands of pages of documents from the investigation by Scottish authorities.

Other evidence included 1.2 terabytes of CCTV footage, which was withheld due to "confidentiality" rules.

The coroner also said he did not know why Scottish prosecutors had taken three years to conclude a criminal case when it was clear from footage shown on media reports how the fire had started.

Mrs Midgley told the court she was still waiting to hear whether there would be a fatal accident inquiry in Scotland but she would continue to campaign for one to take place.

She said the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) insisted she could not have documents relating to the case due to confidentiality, which the coroner told her would not happen in England.

image copyrightcopfs
image captionAerial photographs show the extent of the damage to Cameron House

Mr Dyson's father Roger, from Wetherby, West Yorkshire, told the coroner his family also wanted a fatal accident inquiry but this was "in limbo".

He said his son was a "gentle, loving person who was living life and loving life".

Roger Dyson told the inquest he thought the fine handed to the hotel company was "derisory".

The coroner said he was concerned by evidence about how the guest list was left inside the hotel during the evacuation.

There was also a gap of more than an hour between firefighters arriving and discovering that Mr Dyson and Mr Midgley, who lived in the Finsbury Park area of north London, were missing.

Mr Dyson's father told the inquest this delay "was fatal, in my view".

image captionHotel night porter Christopher O'Malley admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act

The coroner said he had no power to make recommendations to Scottish authorities about the matter but he would be writing to UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and other relevant bodies.

Mr McLoughlin said: "It cries for a technological solution."

The coroner said he would copy Scottish authorities into his report, while saying the issue "deserves explanation and consideration".

Mr McLoughlin said he had decided he could safely conclude both men had been unlawfully killed, despite there being no prosecution over their deaths in Scotland.

He said one key element of this decision was that the hotel had been "expressly warned" about slack procedures for dealing with embers from open fires.

The inquiry was told that more than 200 guests were evacuated from the building during the fire, including a family of two adults and a child who were rescued by ladder and taken to hospital.