Woman killed after setting light to noisy neighbour’s flat in Redwood Grove, inquest heard

The flats at Redwood Grove, Bedford, following a major gas explosion. Image: Twitter/BFRS
The flats at Redwood Grove, Bedford, following a major gas explosion. Image: Twitter/BFRS

A woman was killed when she blew up the block of flats where she lived, an inquest heard today (Tuesday).

Reena James, 43, caused an inferno after using a hammer to smash her way into a noisy neighbour’s home in Bedford. She poured petrol over the surfaces and used a naked flame to set the vapour alight.

It caused a loud explosion that could be heard half a mile away. Residents jumped to safety out of windows as fire ripped through the three-storey block which collapsed.

Three people were taken to the hospital and a firefighter and one resident were treated for smoke inhalation at Bedford Hospital. The other resident went to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge with leg injuries.

A neighbour had tried to rescue Reena, who had lived alone in a ground-floor flat of the building since 2010. Her body was found in his flat.

The hearing at Ampthill heard that Reena did not get on with her upstairs neighbour. Matters got worse during the lockdown when she was working from home. She complained to the management company about the neighbour who put her washing machine on and exercised early in the morning and shouted at her children.

She had complained to the police, councillors and her landlord about her problems, the inquest at Ampthill heard.

Opening the hearing Bedfordshire Senior Coroner Emma Whitting said: “Reena was 43. She was born on 13 April 1979 and was last living in Bedford.

“At around 9.30 on 4 July last year there was an explosion and substantial fire in the block of flats in Redwood Grove flats.

“The fire spread causing catastrophic damage to the structure.”

Fire investigator Trevor Gradwell-Smith said: “The petrol was spread across surfaces and formed a mist which when mixed with air created a vapour cloud. The cause of the fire was ignition by a naked flame.”

He said the explosion sent a window frame flying 50 metres onto an industrial roof. Glass wsas found 20 to 30 metres from the building.

Mr Gradwell-Smith said a neighbour from flat 286 had bravely tried to pull Reena to a place of safety after the explosion. She was found in the living area of his flat.

Petrol reside was found on Reena’s pyjama bottoms.

He said: “We located a claw hammer which we believed was used to force entry.” But he said no container that would have been used to hold the petrol had been found.

Asked by the coroner he said it was not until the following day that they were able to confirm there were no more casualties.

Inquest proceeding.

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