Date: 25 Nov 2016
James Evans and Wayne Bardsley died in a fire at a disused building at 53 Faulkner Street in the early hours of 25 November 2016.
They had been sleeping rough and their exit from the building had been blocked by flames.
James Evans was last seen entering the building at about 8.20pm on the night of 24 November 2016 whilst it was thought that Wayne Bardsley had entered the building some days before and had stayed there because of an injury.
They died there from a combination of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
The fire had resulted in more than 50 firefighters attending the scene
Another homeless man was arrested in relation to the fire, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with a prosecution. It was claimed that the man had deliberately started the fire in the building, but there was not enough evidence to show how the fire had started. A file was originally passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service, proposing charges of arson with intent to endanger life against the man, but they elected to take no action and the police said that they closed the case after they determined that they could not prove how the fire had been started or rule out other possibilities for how it was caused.
The homeless man had been seen in CCTV footage in an alleyway by the building about 20 minutes before the fire brigade were called. He had claimed that he had been looking for discarded food from nearby restaurants and denied knowing anything about the fire before he left the area. He admitted that he knew people slept rough in the building but denied knowing James Evans or Wayne Bardsley.
The homeless man was seen leaving the building at 1.53am on 25 November 2016 in CCTV footage and the fire brigade was called out at 2.16am.
At the inquest into their deaths, the man suspected of causing the fire failed to attend, even though he had been summoned and was legally obliged to do so.
He had earlier said that he had been walking around the city centre and trying to get employment from different bars. He said that he was hungry and knew the back alleys of China town and places where it was likely that food might be discarded, and said that he had taken that food into the alleyway next to the building that was burnt down, saying that he had left as casually as he had gone in.
It was heard that the time of the start of the fire could not be narrowed down sufficiently to say whether it had started before or after the man had gone into the alleyway.
Fire experts said that the fire had started in a side stairwell of the building, but said that due to the damage, they were unable to say exactly where or at what time it had started. They said that a lighter, tea lights and a candle were all considered as possible causes along with arson for the fire but said that it was impossible to say which cause was most probable.
It was said that there was some evidence that Wayne Bardsley had started a fire himself in the building earlier on in the evening to keep warm, but experts said that they had ruled that out as being the source of the fire. He was also seen by another witness trying to make a fire in the building at about 11.11pm to warm up.
It was noted that the area where James Evans and Wayne Bardsley had been sleeping was relatively undamaged by the fire, indicating that the fire didn't start there.
The police said, 'Both males were sleeping on the first floor where there is limited damage and so that area was discounted as the origin of the fire. There was a metal bin and some damage from a previous fire but examinations suggests this was not the cause of the main fire. The stairwell leading from the first floor to the top of the building has collapsed and saw the most severe damage. This means it was the likely origin of the fire. The staircase leads to a door down to the alleyway next to the building which is where the other homeless man was seen. Due to the damage of the building we were unable to determine whether any third party involvement had started the fire. No electrics were running through the building or electrical items in use at the time of the fire so we were able to rule that possibility out. Smoking materials were considered and a lighter was recovered in the alleyway and we could not discount that had started the fire. Within the stairwell there was evidence of tea lights and we had been informed a larger candle was present to light the stairwell. We could not discount any of these theories due to the damage of the property'.
An open conclusion was returned on the deaths of both James Evans and Wayne Bardsley.
James Evans was known as Popeye whilst Wayne Bardsley was known as Uncle Albert. They had both become homeless after trouble with alcohol and becoming unemployed.
Wayne Bardsley had had an accident in 2010 that had left him without the use of one leg.