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Inquest baffled by OAP's spontaneous combustion

A MAN who burned to death in his own home died of spontaneous human combustion, a coroner has ruled.

Dr Kieran McLoughlin said it was the first time in his 25 years as a coroner he had returned such a verdict.

But the death of Michael Faherty (76) in Galway could not be explained any other way.

Gardai and fire officers had never come across such a phenomenon either.

Assistant chief fire officer Gerry O'Malley (pictured) said he was satisfied that, after a thorough investigation, an open fire in Mr Faherty's fireplace was not the cause of the blaze which caused his death.

No trace of an accelerant had been found at the scene and there was no sign that anyone else had entered or left Mr Faherty's home at Clareview Park, Ballybane in Galway city.

The inquest heard that the smoke alarm in the home of Mr Faherty's neighbour, Tom Mannion had gone off at about 3am on December 22 last year. Mr Mannion said he went outside and saw smoke coming from Mr Faherty's house. He banged on the door, but got no response. Gardai and the fire brigade were quickly on the scene.

Garda Gerard O'Callaghan said he had gone to the house and found Mr Faherty lying on his back in a small sitting room, with his head closest to an open fireplace.

Garda O'Callaghan said that the only damage was to the remains, to the floor underneath him and to the ceiling above him. The body had been totally burned.

The coroner said he had given a lot of consideration to the cause of death.

Dr McLoughlin said: "I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation."

Mr Faherty's daughter, Mairin, said afterward, "We accept the findings of the inquest. But, unfortunately, it doesn't provide us with any real explanation."