POLICE investigating a fire at a house piled from floor to ceiling with rubbish have found the body of a woman believed to be the home owner.
Neighbours described the woman, named locally as Linda Parkes, as a ‘hoarder’ and a ‘recluse’ after the blaze which tore through the Long Eaton terraced house on Friday.
Dozens of firefighters from six stations spent 14 hours removing rubbish and other objects – including newspapers, bicycles and bike parts – piled up in every room of the Wellington Street property on Friday in a bid to find the 61-year-old.
But despite their best efforts, they could find no trace of her inside and the investigation was handed over to police who made the grim discovery at about 11am on Monday.
The blaze started at about 7.30am in the rear ground floor bedroom. The rubbish prevented them from accessing the room and a hose had to be trailed through a neighbour’s home to tackle the blaze from the back garden.
Wardrobes had been pushed up against windows stopping firefighters from entering and forcing them to smash a hole in the roof to create a ‘chimney’ for smoke to escape.
Next-door neighbour Richard Golder and his family were evacuated as smoke filled their shared loft. He said: “It’s been just a matter of time before it has come to this with the amount of rubbish that’s in there.”
The 41-year-old said that he had asked Erewash Borough Council and former MP Liz Blackman for help in sorting out the problem but nothing was done.
A spokesman from the authority said: “Derbyshire police will be carrying out a full investigation and the council will do everything possible to assist.
“This was an owner-occupied property with the council having very limited powers in relation to risk of fire.
“It will take some time for the council to carry out a review of any complaints received and any action that may have been taken.”
At the scene on Friday, Chester Welsh, a neighbour and former friend of Ms Parkes, said: “I used to go to nightclubs with her years ago. I hope she’s out there somewhere and not inside that house.”
The blaze was out by late morning but the street remained closed all day while firefighters spent hours searching for her, hampered by the piles of rubbish and the fact that the bathroom floor had collapsed into the rear bedroom where it was thought Ms Parkes could be trapped.
Ilkeston fire station manager Adam Hind was incident commander at the scene. He said: “I have experienced people who collect things but it’s the first time I’ve seen such a serious fire because of it. We do advise people about their lifestyles but we can only give advice.”
Council bin lorries were dispatched to deal with the skip-loads of rubbish removed from the house.
The body had not been formally identified at the time the Advertiser went to press.