Burnley man’s ‘petrol’ death: inquest

Martin Boyle. (s)
Martin Boyle. (s)

THE jury in the inquest of a Burnley man who collapsed after dousing himself in petrol has recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Former Royal Navy mechanic Mr Martin Boyle (40) died following a four-hour stand-off at his house in Emily Street, Burnley, where he poured petrol over himself and threatened to ignite it.

He was eventually found collapsed in his home and taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital where he died.

The family of Mr Boyle, who believe his actions on February 13th, 2010, were a cry for help, questioned why they were not allowed to speak to him during the siege.

However, Lancashire Police felt Mr Boyle, who had weapons including a stun gun, a BB gun, a small axe, a knife and lighters, was a danger to the public and could have ignited the petrol engulfing the row of houses.

Mrs Shirley Boyle said her husband had suffered from depression for years but had never talked about suicide and his actions were “completely out of character”.

She said the couple enjoyed a happy marriage although did have arguments, one of which took place the evening before his death. “I stayed at my mum’s that night as I didn’t want us arguing but I was always coming back on the Saturday.”

The inquest heard how neighbour Mr Danny Preston was with Mr Boyle outside the house when police arrived.

“He had a bottle of whiskey, about a quarter full,” said Mr Preston. “He asked me to have a drink with him so I did. One of the officers came over and I told him Martin wanted to go inside and get another bottle of whiskey. The officer got another bottle from my house. He tried lighting a piece of paper but I smothered it and said ‘don’t be so stupid’. He seemed to calm down then.

“Martin then insisted he went back in his house. It was soaked in petrol. We talked about his family and he thought they would not come back. Eventually though I had to go outside to get some air.”

Once outside, Mr Preston was told he would not be allowed back in for his own safety. After trying to force his way back he was arrested for breaching the peace.

After negotiators were unable to contact Mr Boyle, his dad Martin was asked to try to speak to him through the door but also received no reply.

“I know that if I could have spoken to Martin earlier I could have talked him out of it but I know because of the nature of the situation that was not possible,” he told the inquest.

A police dog with a camera attached was sent in and showed Mr Boyle unconscious on the kitchen floor. He was taken out in handcuffs, placed on a stretcher and transported to Blackburn.

Mr Philip Holden, representing the family, raised concerns over the way the situation was handled by the police, asking Insp. Phil Hutchinson, who was in charge at the scene, why the family was not allowed to speak to Mr Boyle earlier and why the situation took so long to resolve.

Insp. Hutchinson said they had to wait for the negotiators to arrive and they had to be given time to try to get Mr Boyle out.

He also added: “My primary thoughts were to keep Mr Boyle, Mr Preston, the emergency services and public safe. I did not want anybody to die.”

A post-mortem examination revealed Mr Boyle’s blood alcohol level was three-and-a-half times the legal drive limit and the anti-depressant Citalopram was also found in his system.

Home office pathologist Dr Naomi Carter gave his cause of death as “acute alcohol intoxication enhanced by Citalopram” but could not rule out if petrol fumes had also been a contributory factor.

There’s more on this tragic story in Friday’s Express