Vulnerable woman dies in St Albans house blaze

A woman died in a fire in Bowgate flats on Friday, May 15 in St Albans. Picture: Supplied

A woman died in a fire in Bowgate flats on Friday, May 15 in St Albans. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

A vulnerable woman died in her burning St Albans flat after her neighbours claim pleas to provide mental health support went unheard.

The woman, who was in her 40s, became trapped in the blaze at Bowgate on Hillside Road at around 6.30pm on Friday, May 15.

Children were screaming as the smoke and flames engulfed their neighbour’s property and their panicking parents tried to take them to a place of safety.

Police and fire attended the scene and the woman was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Residents of Bowgate on Hillside Road say that support services had previously been asked to help the tenant but their requests fell on deaf ears.

The fire was started by a cigarette setting light to the sofa, neighbours claimed.

Emma Kenchington, 30, who lived in the same block, said: “We have been trying to get help for this poor woman for the last 21 weeks since she moved here.

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“My carbon monoxide alarm went off and I had to get everybody out.”

Neighbour Kirsty Swaryczewska said: “We have spent six months trying to get Home Group to do something about the situation. They never listened. She was completely failed by them and our safety was put at risk.

“We all have children who are now suffering after the traumatic experience of seeing this tragedy.”

Another resident, Ellie Tully said: “I have witnessed several incidents over the last few months.

“I feel that housing and mental health teams should have done more so that this did not result in tragedy.”

And neighbour Hayley Dyrda said: “This should not have happened? Why did it happen? I believe that the woman in question needed more support and has been failed.”

Head of service delivery for housing association Home Group in the south Jo Huxtable said: “We are all truly saddened by the tragic event which took place last Friday. All of our thoughts are with our customer’s family at this time.

“We were aware that some residents had concerns for our customer’s well-being.

“That is why we were actively engaged with their wider support network over an extended period of time in order to try to get our customer the support they needed.

“My colleagues have gone over and above what is expected and they are all feeling the full impact of this tragic incident.”

Kirsty added: “My heart goes out to the family of this woman - I really wish there had been more help for her.”