Arrest over fire death in St Leonards

Fire damaged flat in St Margaret's Road, St Leonards.
Fire damaged flat in St Margaret's Road, St Leonards.
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A 60-YEAR-OLD woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a man died in a blaze at a flat.

Firefighters were called to the third-storey flat in Charmaine Court, St Margaret’s Road, St Leonards, at 11.30pm on Wednesday.

They brought out a 57-year-old man, named locally as Jim Baldwin, who died at the scene.

The woman was taken to the Conquest Hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation but was discharged after treatment. She was been arrested on suspicion of murder and questioned by officers.

Yesterday morning fire investigation officers and a police scenes of crime officer were at the property.

Residents in the flats told how they were alerted by the smell of smoke in the building and then saw thick plumes of black smoke coming from Mr Baldwin’s flat.

Alexander Drusecutaru, (CORR) 56, works for the building’s landlord and lives on site.

He said: “I live at the back of the block and one of the residents came and knocked on my door.

“I went outside and saw there was a lot of black smoke coming out of Jim’s window. The firefighters went in and brought him out on a stretcher. He looked dead there and then but they put him in an ambulance and took him away.

“His girlfriend was a Scottish lady called Liz. She came down on her own and managed to escape. She was crying.

“I know Jim as he lived here for about 10 or 15 years. He liked a drink or two.”

Landlord Mike West arrived at the property yesterday morning.

He said: “Jim was one of my longest-standing tenants and I had no problems with him.

“He came down from the Midlands area a few years ago and set up his own decorating firm called Mayfair Decorating. I think his girlfriend had been staying with him but was not living there.

“He lost his business and then that’s when he hit the bottle.

“He was a very friendly chap – it’s quite tragic really.”

John Ferguson used to drink with Mr Baldwin in the Prince of Wales pub in Western Road.

He said: “It’s very sad as Jim was a decent chap. His marriage broke down about 10 years ago and he started to drink quite heavily.

“I think he came down from the Midlands and he used to be a manager of the Prince of Wales for a while.

“I used to see him out and about - it’s just all so tragic.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said: “The cause is being investigated by detectives and forensic staff from the Surrey & Sussex Major Crime Team working with investigators from East Sussex Fire & Rescue.

“The 60-year old woman was taken to the Conquest Hospital from the flat suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation but was discharged after treatment and has been arrested on suspicion of murder.

“The scene is still being examined and a postmortem has yet to be arranged.”