Sunday 4 December 2016

Tributes left to 'lovely couple' who died in tragic house blast

Alexander Britton and Matthew Cooper

Published 21/09/2015 | 15:33

Forensic officers work at the scene at Valley View Road, Riddings, Derbyshire, after an explosion killed a married couple, named locally as Simon Saxton-Cooper and his wife Shelley, 45 Credit: Alex Britton/PA Wire
Forensic officers work at the scene at Valley View Road, Riddings, Derbyshire, after an explosion killed a married couple, named locally as Simon Saxton-Cooper and his wife Shelley, 45 Credit: Alex Britton/PA Wire

Tributes have been left at the scene of a house blast in which a couple were killed.

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Forensic teams are working to piece together the cause of the explosion and fire in which the man and woman, named locally as Simon Saxton-Cooper, 50, and his wife Shelley, 45, died on Sunday.

The cause of an explosion and fire which killed the couple is now being treated as suspicious, Derbyshire Police said today.

Flowers have been laid in the street, with one tribute saying "Hearts are broken. Married many years and now you are at peace together. A tragedy your lives should end this way."

Flowers left at the scene at Valley View Road, Riddings, Derbyshire, after an explosion killed a married couple, named locally as Simon Saxton-Cooper and his wife Shelley, 45 Credit: Alex Britton/PA Wire
Flowers left at the scene at Valley View Road, Riddings, Derbyshire, after an explosion killed a married couple, named locally as Simon Saxton-Cooper and his wife Shelley, 45 Credit: Alex Britton/PA Wire

Neighbours said the couple were "lovely".

Jayne Titchmarsh, who lives two doors away, said: "I knew the couple a little bit, I used to see them walking dogs in the morning and we would chat about family and things like that.

"It's just such a shock really because I used to see them most days. They were a lovely couple, just so close. It's funny that they've gone together really, just so sad.

"I just heard like a loud thunder. I ran to the window and saw debris coming down across the window and there were flames on the front.

"I just couldn't believe it. The fire really took off. Everyone was shouting 'Get out, get out' and I just ran with my son because we thought it was going to catch light.

"It was just really frightening. I thought it might spread. We ran down the street and started coming back and then police, fire engines and everyone arrived.

"You could see the smoke going into the sky, it was just horrific."

It is reported that Mrs Saxton-Cooper's parents lived next door to the couple.

Her father is said to have made attempts at a rescue, along with an airport firefighter who lived nearby and an off-duty policeman.

East Midlands Airport fireman Paul Archer, who lives in a neighbouring street, told how he climbed the stairs of the blazing house to search for casualties but was beaten back by intense heat.

Mr Archer, 48, said: "It didn't sound like a massive explosion - it sounded like something big had been dropped."

The father-of-two put on old firefighting equipment stored in his garage, including a tunic, a flash-hood and fire-retardant gloves, after the blast at 7.30am.

"The flames started straight away," he said. "One of the neighbours had got a key and they opened the back door. I made my way in shouting 'Can you hear me?' and the downstairs was really clear.

"I got to the bottom of the stairs, shouting again, and made my way up to the top of the stairs.

"By this time the house was pretty well ablaze - the front bedroom door was on fire but I was shouting 'Hello, can anyone hear me?'"

Mr Archer also saw flames in a rear bedroom and feared the roof might cave in, eventually leaving the house via the front door as he heard the sirens of the first fire appliances to arrive.

Post-mortem examinations will be carried out on the two bodies to determine the cause of death.

Derbyshire Police said they are keeping an "open mind" about the cause and added that the inquiry was "still at an early stage".

A spokesman added: "Because of the extent of the fire damage, it's a difficult and complex investigation and there will be a full forensic examination of the scene."

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