Tragedy of vulnerable mum who died in blaze

Gemma Bishop
Gemma Bishop

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A YOUNG mother died after dousing her home in petrol and setting fire to it, an inquest heard.

Despite attempts to call for help, Gemma Bishop, 29, of Edgell Road, Westbourne, died before she could be reached by neighbours and fire crews in May.

An inquest into her death took place in Chichester.

Karine Charrett, Miss Bishop’s sister, said: ‘She wanted a perfect family life. It would be fair to say she was vulnerable.’

The hearing was told Miss Bishop was unconscious when firefighters found her.

Lee Spencer Smith, fire station manager at Worthing, said: ‘Petrol had been spread on the landing and the staircase. There were smoke detectors which had been removed.’

However, the inquest heard Miss Bishop called the emergency services to report the fire, repeating a pattern of dangerous actions and calls for help.

She had made suicide attempts but every time she phoned for the emergency services.

Miss Bishop had three children, who were taken into care after she started a relationship with a man. Miss Bishop’s family said he had been in prison before.

The inquest heard social services gave Miss Bishop an ultimatum – to either leave him or risk losing her children.

Mrs Charrett said her sister had ‘quite high anxiety’ from the time her children were taken away from her.

Miss Bishop’s father, Andrew Bishop, told the coroner: ‘If someone suggested something which was not quite right, she could be persuaded to go along with something.

‘From a father’s point of view, sometimes her relationships were not what I would have liked.’

Returning a verdict of accidental death, Michael Kendall, deputy assistant coroner, said her actions might have been a desperate attempt to get her partner back in her life.

He said: ‘It does appear from the evidence that she doused the house with petrol and set fire to it.

‘It is entirely consistent that she attempted something which would get her partner back in her life. There isn’t sufficient evidence that she intended to die.’