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A Finchampstead carpenter who set himself on fire outside Yateley police station was conducting an act of “protest” and “self destruction in the most appalling way”, a coroner has said.
Sean Warren, 49, of The Village, was battling with depression and a combination of alcohol and medication problems in the run-up to his death, an inquest heard on Thursday last week.
Mr Warren had been arrested two days before his death in Yateley on suspicion of theft from a motor vehicle. He spent the night in Aldershot police station where he was very aggressive and violent towards officers, the inquest in Basingstoke heard. Mr Warren was bailed to return on a later date but could not be released due to an outstanding arrest warrant imposed by Slough Magistrates’ Court.
He was transferred to Slough and later released on the morning of Thursday, April 10, before going to Yateley and buying petrol and a lighter from the Texaco garage in Reading Road, the inquest heard.
He approached the police station in Royal Oak Close, Yateley, and covered his body in the liquid and set fire to himself at about 6.10pm. He died almost immediately.
North East coroner Andrew Bradley recorded a verdict of suicide at the inquest held in Basingstoke. He said: “It is quite clear that he was having difficulties in his life and suffering from depression and he had an alcohol and medication problem. It is an extremely difficult matter for all those involved for every reason. The image of something like this is extremely difficult for someone to carry.”
A post mortem examination revealed the cause of death was shock and burns.
Mr Bradley said Mr Warren’s suffering would have been minimal.
He added: “I have to take the view it was self-inflicted. He set fire to himself while in a depressed state.”
Passer-by Ouida Grant was leaving Yateley Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB), adjacent to the police station, when she saw Mr Warren alight, the inquest heard.
In a statement read out to the coroner’s court the CAB district manager recounted how it looked like Mr Warren was “melting” and described the scene as “something from a horror film”.
She said: “I ran back into the CAB and dialled 999. He was still standing up and I could hear him screaming. He made a short distance to the car park and fell down.”
Mrs Grant said she could see a petrol can discarded down the road.
Firefighter Antony White was at Yateley fire station, adjacent to the police station, when Mr Warren died.
He told the inquest he heard a shout from outside but when he looked out the window he did not see anything. He believed it was children playing nearby.
“At 18.06 my pager went off,” he said.
“It said there was a man on fire at an address outside the police station. I ran out with a first aid kit and a fire blanket and I saw a man on fire on the ground.
“I ran back to get more blankets and then another firefighter arrived. There was no sign of life from the body. It was not a windy day so when I looked out the window there was no smoke.”
The inquest heard there were officers in the police station but they were in the back of the building. The station was not open to the public at the time.
At his funeral at St James’ Church in Finchampstead on Wednesday, April 30, Mr Warren was described a “happy-go-lucky” man, a hard worker and a person who enjoyed working with his hands.
He went to Edgbarrow School in Sandhurst and was a member of Finchampstead Sports Club.
Mr Warren had broken his neck when he was involved in a car accident in November last year and had to wear a neck brace. However this did not stop him working and being active, his friends said.
Mr Warren leaves behind two children and a sister, Dawn, who lives locally.