New Year's Day fire that killed man in Gosport flat stumps investigators, inquest hears

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The death of a man in a fire on New Year’s Day remains a mystery – after experts were unable to figure out how the blaze started.

Firefighters and police officers were called to Durham Street in Gosport in the early hours of January 1 last year, in an incident which claimed the life of 27-year-old Catalin Bragau.

Yesterday, on March 22, an inquest was held into his death at Portsmouth Coroner’s Court, where area coroner Jason Pegg revealed that the cause of the fire has stumped investigators and electrical experts alike.

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Catalin Bragau, who died in a flat fire in Durham Street, Gosport Picture: Family/Mike CooterCatalin Bragau, who died in a flat fire in Durham Street, Gosport Picture: Family/Mike Cooter
Catalin Bragau, who died in a flat fire in Durham Street, Gosport Picture: Family/Mike Cooter

The court heard how Bragau returned home drunk on New Year’s Eve, carrying a crate of alcohol. His flatmate went out to a party and phoned Bragau, asking him to come along too – he apparently agreed, but never turned up.

Emergency services turned up shortly after 2.30am after Bragau’s flatmate returned to find the building up in smoke. Bragau was pronounced dead at the scene.

A investigating officer from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service surveyed the property, but couldn’t establish an exact cause of the fire. Another investigator, who examined the electrical cupboard, was also unable to find out how the incident began.

Mr Pegg said: ‘They [Bragau and his flatmate] had returned to the flat and Mr Bragau was intoxicated with alcohol. The flatmate went out, leaving Mr Bragau alone. At some point after that, a fire started in the electrical cupboard.

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Durham Street, Gopsort. Picture: David GeorgeDurham Street, Gopsort. Picture: David George
Durham Street, Gopsort. Picture: David George

‘How that fire started has been investigated by the fire service and Michael Jones of MJC Forensic Fire Electrical Investigations – but neither can be sure of the cause of the fire.

‘Mr Jones is clear about how at the time of the fire, there was no power in the flat as the meter had run out, and so an electrical fire was not the cause of the ignition. Bragau was a smoker – but the fire service found no evidence that smoking material was the seed of the fire either.’

Mr Pegg ruled that Bragau’s death was an accidental one, caused by the inhalation of carbon monoxide from the smoke. The property in Durham Street is still boarded up.

Addressing his Romanian family on the recording, Mr Pegg said: ‘You have my sincerest condolences for your loss.’

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