AN inquest has heard how a well-liked village eccentric died in a major fire at his hand-built wooden shack last year.

Clement Holmes, from Oxenhope, was 73 when he tragically died in the fire at The Yard, off Stone Lane, in the early hours June 9, 2020.

The inquest at Bradford Coroners’ Court heard how his brother feared Clem’s ramshackle home was a “ticking time bomb”, built out of wood and insulated with sheets of newspaper, and full of homemade appliances, electrical items and gas canisters.

There was shock in Oxenhope when Mr Holmes, a reclusive divorcee, died last year.

A post-mortem examination found his airways blocked with soot and lethal levels of carbon monoxide in his blood, as well as a “moderate” level of alcohol.

It was heard Mr Holmes brewed his own alcohol in his shack, which had moved into on family land following his divorce, but his family insisted “while he liked a drink he was not an alcoholic”.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service conducted an investigation into the fire but could not find a definite cause due to the damage caused by the “extreme” fire.

However they did conclude it was not deliberate and was likely to have been accidentally caused by a fault electrical appliance, the homemade electrical system, by gas appliances, or accidentally by Mr Holmes.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Holme’s brother told of how he heard a “double-barrelled explosion” when the shack went up in flames.

He said: “He was well-liked, he always seemed happy and had lots of friends and would go to the local pub.

“I felt his living arrangements, in a caravan on land given by our father, were a ticking time bomb.

“He had gas canisters all over the place and gas piping he had done himself.

“In the early hours of June 9 I was in my bedroom dozing off when I heard a double-barrelled explosion - I thought I was dreaming - and the next thing I knew the police were at my door telling me what happened.

“It was a huge shock and a tragedy, if I could have saved him I would have.”

John Holmes’ son, Mathew, added: “Uncle Clem lived an isolated life but was totally happy.

“He was rather eccentric, people compared him to Greengrass from Heartbeat, and he made his own alcohol

“He wasn’t bothered about health and safety and lived in The Yard pottering with machinery, I last saw him a week before he died and he seemed well.”

Mr Holmes’ sister, Mary Hopkins, added: “He was a recluse, he always seemed ok when I saw him and he would come to mine for Christmas Day every year.”

A post-mortem found extensive heat-related damage to his body, and lots of soot in his airways, as well as carbon monoxide in his blood at a 50 per cent concentration, and found smoke inhalation led to his cause of death.

Concluding the inquest, Assistant Coroner Angela Brocklehurst accepted the cause of death, and the fire service’s conclusion at being unable to confirm what caused the fire.

She passed her condolences to the family and said Mr Holmes “seemed a lovely, eccentric who did his own thing”.

She added: “He was well liked by people in the local community and must have been lovely to have as a relative.

“I’m sorry we cannot identify how the fire started, but the fire service did their best but the fire was so extreme all evidence was effectively destroyed.

“Mr Holmes though was casual and careless with health and safety, keeping gas canisters all over the place while living in a wooden shack insulated with newspaper.

“I am very sorry for your loss, especially Clem’s nephew who he was particularly close to.”