Tumble dryer model which caused killer fire 'was behind 20 previous blazes'


A model of tumble dryer which sparked a fire that killed a mother-of-two had been involved in 20 previous reported blazes, an inquest has heard.

Mishell Moloney was found dead under her duvet on the floor of her bedroom by her sister and daughter after they smashed their way in through the patio doors.

The 49-year-old had been overcome by carbon monoxide fumes and smoke caused by a small fire in the tumble dryer, contained in the downstairs kitchen.

By the time Ms Moloney's family were able to get inside the home in the Rubery area of Birmingham on February 7, the fire - starved of oxygen - had already gone out.

An investigation uncovered evidence that the blaze in Coriander Close had started in or around the area where dryer's printed circuit board (PCB) was.

The dryer's manufacturer, Beko, said the PCB had never been the identified cause of any of 20 previous fires traced to the 8kg DCS 85W model.

At Birmingham Coroner's Court on Monday, during an inquest into Ms Moloney's death, Beko's director of quality, Andrew Mullen, said 38,000 units had been sold in the UK and Ireland.

Asked what faults had caused the 20 previous fires, he said: "In virtually all cases it has been the run capacitor - I can't think of any cases that weren't."

He said a decision not to recall the model was taken only after a risk assessment, and consultation with trading standards officers.

The dryer complied with European safety standards and the UK's general fire safety regulations, he added.

Mr Mullen revealed that the 8kg model's sister products, the 6kg and 7kg versions, had been recalled but only because of numerous faults with the capacitor.

He said those smaller models had been recalled because "within the first three months in excess of 100 incidents in similar circumstances".

Mr Mullen was asked by area coroner for Birmingham and Solihull Emma Brown why Beko had not then decided to recall the larger model, which Ms Moloney had bought in October 2012.

He said: "We looked at the number of incidents against sales, the severity of the incidents and circumstances, and in all those assessments they were all incidents that happened within 10 or 20 minutes of the tumble dryer being used.

"Nearly all those were when the tumble dryer was in unheated buildings such as a shed or outhouse.

"In those cases the risk of injury was low."

Mr Mullen added that "over 80%" of those fires had happened when the dryer was being used in an outbuilding.

He added that the model involved in the fatal fire at Ms Moloney's home was discontinued last year "as part of a range change".

Mr Mullen said: "This is very tragic incident but it's an isolated incident which, despite the fact we know on the balance of probabilities it was caused by the tumble dryer, we still don't know what caused it."

Fire investigator James McDonald described what he found at the scene.

He said: "There had been a small fire located within the kitchen.

"On closer examination there appeared to be what was a tumble dryer set within the kitchen next to a washing machine.

"It was a localised small fire and, in my experience, a relatively small fire."

He added: "Although it was a small fire, it completely destroyed the tumble dryer."

Mr McDonald said that when the fire brigade arrived the blaze was out, and there was no smoke.

He added that there were working smoke detectors in the house but they may have stopped sounding the alarm when the smoke had cleared.

Mr McDonald described finding dry clothing hanging neatly on the stair bannisters and landing, while a load of clothing was still in the washing machine, half-done.

He said: "The hypothesis I used at the time was that the washing machine was halfway though, as if some problem had occurred and she had taken the clothes out and switched it off. It's feasible."

Independent forensic consulting scientist Stephen Tompsett, who was employed by Beko to examine the dryer after the fire, was asked if some of the 20 reported blazes could have been caused by the PCB.

He said: "If there's a problem with the PCB, I think a mention would have been made of it during the joint inspection."

A verdict is expected later.