Edith Stuart: Unsolved Murder (2010)

Updated: Mar 24, 2021


At 6pm on 17 October 2010, 96 year old Edith Stuart was burned alive, after her bed had been deliberately set alight. Edith suffered extensive burns to her back, arms, legs and buttocks. She passed away the following day at Liverpool Victoria Hospital.


Home Office pathologist Dr Alison Armour confirmed the cause of death as burns and that, in her opinion, Mrs Stuart was lying down when the fire spread to her bedclothes. Edith had been living at Cleveleys Park Rest Home in Lancashire for four years.

 

The Evidence


The Fire and Rescue Service said a green cigarette lighter was discovered on the floor of the bedroom. Edith Stuart did not smoke and would not have owned that lighter. The blaze was consistent with spreading upwards from the cotton valance sheet of the bed and then across to the wall when it is likely Mrs Stuart would have thrown her bedding as she sat up.The pattern of the blaze was not consistent with a dropped cigarette and the flame would have had to have been held deliberately for three seconds.

 

Investigation

Two employees (aged 17 and 27) were initially held on suspicion of her murder but the CPS later ruled that there was insufficient evidence to charge either woman. They were the sole members of staff on duty at the time and were looking after ten elderly residents - nine of whom were mentally or physically infirm. The one mobile resident was upstairs in her room at the time of the blaze, and third party involvement from an intruder was ruled out by the police. West Lancashire deputy coroner Simon Jones said that, similarly to detectives, he noticed "discrepancies" in the accounts of the two care workers as to their whereabouts before the fire alarm went off.