Elderly flat fire victim named as tributes pour in amid suspicions cigarette ignited Islington blaze

Charred brickwork caused by smoke can be seen around Elizabeth Wiseman's first-floor flat

Charred brickwork caused by smoke can be seen around Elizabeth Wiseman's first-floor flat - Credit: Archant

An investigation into a fire which claimed the life of a “lovely and sweet” Islington pensioner is expected to conclude the blaze was ignited by a cigarette, fire sources said yesterday.

Tributes have poured in for Elizabeth Wiseman, who died inside her flat in Liverpool Road where the blaze broke out on Wednesday night shortly before 7pm.

Fire crews found the pensioner towards the back of her flat in what is thought to have been her bedroom.

The 77-year-old was said to be a regular smoker and firefighters have been called to her apartments a number of times before.

In a flurry of tributes, residents told how Ms Wiseman was a former headmistress at a local school, and a well-known face about the estate where her sheltered accommodation was in Old Royal Free Place.

Neighbour Tony Brennan, 54, said: “Elizabeth was a lovely and sweet old lady. You could have a really nice conversation with her because she was educated and quite intelligent and everyone looked out for her. She was always going down Upper Street to have her breakfast.

“But we hadn’t seen her for the last couple of weeks because she was in hospital with a chest infection or something and had probably been feeling ill after she came out.

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“She was just a very nice lady. This is very, very sad.”

Another neighbour, Iris Baker, said: “Elizabeth was always out and about, she always had a smile on her face. She used to sit outside the pubs and restaurants and always looked like she was enjoying herself.”

She added: “When I saw the smoke I feared for the worst. It was really think, black smoke. I thought, ‘what the hell has happened’, it was coming out of the front windows, it looked really bad.

“Someone tried to get in to get her out I think but they obviously couldn’t get to her. It’s tragic. It’s horrible. You don’t expect to die like that.”

Another neighbour, who wished not to be named, said: “She was a lovely lady, the sort of person that would give you her last penny if you needed it.”

Islington and Kingsland fire crews rushed to the scene while Clerkenwell – currently threatened with closure – was the second crew to reach the scene.

Firefighters are unable to begin fighting fires properly until the second crew turns up, which could take more than two minutes longer if Clerkenwell is axed.

Firefighters led seven people to safety from the block of flats and five tenants from the surrounding apartments were also treated for smoke inhalation before Ms Wiseman was pronounced dead.

Circle Housing Group, which manages the sheltered accommodation, confirmed residents are allowed to smoke in their rooms under their rules, but that a thorough investigation is underway.

Anne Anketell, Managing Director of Circle Support, said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends.

“Our priority is to provide full support to our residents following this tragic incident and our team has been on site since the fire was reported.

“The 24 hour emergency alarm service was answered within seconds and the fire brigade was on site shortly following this. We are conducting a full investigation and are cooperating fully with the fire service in their enquiries.”