A WINCHESTER man died in a flat fire which was likely caused by an electric heater being too close to a sofa, an inquest heard.

Stephen Vear, 57, of Fell House in Whiteshute Lane, was pronounced dead at his first floor home on November 5.

A post mortem report by Dr Adnan Al-Badri found Mr Vear had 150 times the therapeutic level of promethazine in his system. However, such a high reading is likely due to post mortem redistribution, which can heighten the concentration of a drug after death.

Robin Furniss, an investigation officer at Hampshire Fire and Rescue, said: "It was likely that Stephen was asleep in his bedroom when the fire started in the lounge. He probably would have been awoken by the fire alarm.

"Because he was not used to dealing with a fire, his response would've been to fight it which meant he would've inhaled a lot of smoke whilst already drowsy."

Mr Furniss concluded the fire was, on the balance of probabilities, caused by an electric heater being placed too close to a sofa.

As previously reported, emergency services were sent to the St Cross property at around 3.20pm after a neighbour reported seeing smoke and flames.

Winchester Coroner's Court heard that Mr Vear often slept in the afternoon due to health issues.

He suffered from depression and had a long history of lower back pain, and was on a waiting list to undergo spinal fusion surgery.

A statement from his daughter, Sarah-Jane Moolgavkar, said: "He was a very positive man. The last time I spoke to him he sounded happy.

"He enjoyed riding his restored motorcycle, played golf and took pleasure in photography. Waiting for surgery, he struggled to move around and that made it difficult for him to get in and out of the car."

"Everyone who knew him misses him dearly," added a statement from the wider family, who were present at the inquest. "The whole family miss him terribly in such a tragic time, but we would like to thank the police, the fire service and all other witnesses who have been very compassionate. "This is something we've all had to deal with, so thank you for all of your efforts."

Area coroner Samantha Marsh concluded as an accidental death.