Coroner rules out human combustion in Donegal fire death

A Donegal Coroner has described spontaneous human combustion as "probably an urban myth".

Dr John Madden made the comment at the inquest into the death of 50 year old Elizabeth McLaughlin, of 42 Close Padraig, Carndonagh, on New Years Eve last year.

The inquest heard from Harry Masterson, partner of Ms McLaughlin for the previous 12 years, and Dolores Loftus, a niece of Ms McLaughlin, who had tried to get into the house when she heard the smoke alarm going off at 10.20am.

Mr Masterson and a nephew of the deceased woman got in through an upstairs window, and found the burned body.

Dental records and DNA from Ms McLaughlin's hairbrush were used to formally identify her, Sgt John McLaughlin told the inquest.

He said that inside the sitting room on the floor were the charred remains of a person. An unusual aspect was that the actual burning and fire damage were confined to the human remains on the floor and the immediate vicinity.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis conducted the autopsy on Ms McLaughlin however, Dr Madden did not read it out, describing it as "quite graphic".

He said there was talk of spontaneous human combustion, and his research leads him to conclude it is probably an urban myth. However, when he saw the remains, he said, it did come to mind.

Dr Madden found that death was caused by fire.