Police made the macabre discovery of the body of a man who may have been dead in his charred and smoke-filled home for days.
Worried neighbours went to check on bachelor Arthur Barker, who was in his 70s, and found his house black with soot, and the window panes hot to the touch.
They dialled 999, and police forced their way into the mid-link home on Landseer Walk in Gleadless Valley, Sheffield, where they found the body in the living room and flames still smouldering.
Firefighters then entered to extinguish the blaze, which is believed to be linked to the gas fire. An investigation is under way.
The house was cordoned off and under police guard yesterday while police and fire investigators examined the remains.
Neighbours described Mr Barker, who lived alone and had never married, as a ‘lovely, good neighbour’ and someone who ‘would do anything for anyone’.
The retired engineer used to go for an afternoon drink most days at The Bagshaw Arms, Norton, but neighbours became concerned after not seeing him for two or three days.
Irene Whitham, 73, who lives next door, said: “We could smell smoke in our kitchen the night before, but I had been tumble drying a jacket and thought it was that. The next morning the smell was stronger, and a neighbour came and said she had not seen Arthur for a few days, so my husband went round and the windows were black and hot to the touch so we feared the worst.”
Husband Alan, 75, said: “The police kicked the door in and obviously discovered the fire and the body, and asked us to move out of our house because they were worried about a possible gas leak.
“Arthur had lived here over 40 years and was very well known – he would always stop and speak to you. He was a good neighbour.”
Neighbour Michael Longthorn, 55, said: “Arthur kept himself to himself but I used to talk to him regularly in The Bagshaw.
“He used to go there most afternoons, but would always come home for 6pm.
“In the summer he used to get up early and go walking. It’s a real shame.”
A South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman confirmed: “The man, in his 70s, had been dead for some time. The fire was smouldering, and the house heavily smoke logged.
“Firefighters used water-filled backpacks to damp down hot spots, and ventilated the property, before beginning an investigation. Initial investigations are focusing on a gas fire, and suggest an accidental cause. It appears no smoke alarms were present.”