Dinnington: Grieving brother started blaze in his home then shot himself, inquest told

A grieving man mourning the death of his brother started a fire in his South Yorkshire home and then shot himself.

Fire damaged house on Meadow Street, Laughton Common
Fire damaged house on Meadow Street, Laughton Common

Robert Walton, of Meadow Street, Dinnington, set his home alight using a gas cylinder and then poured diesel around his bedroom, an inquest heard.

Shortly afterwards, he used a shotgun to shoot himself.

The 66-year-old retired scrap metal worker had lived with his brother, Archie, for more than a decade until Archie died last year. The brothers were described as ‘very close’ by his family.

Dr Naomi Carter, forensic pathologist, told the inquest she believes smoke from the fire killed Mr Walton rather than the gunshot wound.

In the days leading up to his death, in April this year, the Rotherham inquest heard Mr Walton showed signs of mental health problems and he told his GP, Lakhveer Jhalli, that two builders had defrauded money from his brother Archie and he was going to kill them and then himself in revenge.

He told the GP that he had a gun that was ‘in pieces’ in his house and garden.

Dr Jhalli said she was ‘taken aback’ by his comments and contacted the NHS mental health crisis team, and, at their recommendation, South Yorkshire Police officers called around to see Mr Walton in his home. Officers also spoke to his family.

PC Scott Wright told the inquest Mr Walton’s behaviour seemed ‘odd’ as his conversation kept going off at a tangent. However, he said he was ‘welcoming and calm’ during the visit.

Mr Walton told the officers that the story about the gun was a ploy to get them to the house so he could talk about his fraud claims.

The officers agreed that he was not a risk to himself and others but did ‘have concerns for his mental health’ and they subsequently contacted social services.

The officers saw two air rifles propped up in a corner at Mr Walton’s home, which he had pointed out to them, but did not see a shotgun.

Mr Wright said: “It was my honest belief at the time that there was no gun.”

An investigation by the IPCC found that the officers took reasonable and proportionate action when dealing with Mr Walton and in their decision not to search his home.

Mr Walton’s brother, Michael, who lived with his family next door to Robert and Archie, described Robert as a ‘ very intelligent man’ who loved the outdoors and going fishing and shooting.

Coroner Mark Beresford recorded a verdict of suicide as a result of both the shotgun wound and smoke inhalation.

He said the reason why Mr Walton chose to end his life is not easily answered but added: “He had a continuing grief over his beloved brother and he never fully overcame that grief.”