NEIGHBOURS have told an inquest how they desperately tried to save a man who set himself on fire in woodland.
Malcolm Simpson, 63, a motorcycle salesman, was discovered in a ball of flames in woods off Harkness Drive, Waterlooville.
Nigel Southall, who lived nearby, said he grabbed a blanket from his car and tried to smother the flames.
He then knocked on nearby doors trying to get more blankets, as another resident, Phil Deacon, grabbed a hose-pipe and tried to put out the fire still burning in the woods.
An inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall heard how Mr Simpson, who lived near the woods in Kassel Close, died on October 25 last year after suffering massive burns.
Mr Southall said he saw a plume of smoke and went to investigate.
He told the inquest: ‘It was a man on fire. It looked like a stuntman.’
Mr Simpson’s wife Sandra returned home from visiting a relative on Hayling Island and initially believed there was a car accident due to all the police vehicles in the road.
In a statement she told the inquest: ‘He was a friendly, good and generous man. He began to suffer with depression. He thought certain people at work seemed to be undermining him and causing his confidence to suffer.’
The inquest heard how the dad-of-two had tried to take his own life earlier that month by taking an overdose.
Mrs Simpson spoke to her husband at Queen Alexandra Hospital, where he had been airlifted to and cared for until he died the day after setting himself on fire.
She said: ‘At hospital he told me he was sorry and tried to comfort me. I don’t know and can’t understand what made him do what he did. He did not have any debts and was financially stable.
‘I am completely devastated by what happened.’
Firefighter Brian Saunders attended the incident and spoke to Mr Simpson, who was no longer on fire by the time a crew arrived. He asked him what started the fire and Mr Simpson replied: ‘Petrol. I did it’.
Adrian Simpson, Mr Simpson’s brother, thanked those who tried to help, adding: ‘I would like to express my sincerest thanks for everything you did to try and help.’
Deputy Coroner Robert Stone said: ‘In all the circumstances, in particular that Malcolm referred on at least two occasions to petrol, “I did it”, and that he intended to take his own life, my verdict is that he took his own life.’