Eccentric inventor found dead in flat fire

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

AN ECCENTRIC inventor who was well-known for his campaign against council bureaucracy has died after an explosion at his home, writes Nick Walker.

Laurence Coldwell, 85, of Watchet, near Minehead in Somerset, was known in the community for his mad-cap inventions and battles with the local authority.

West Somerset District Council took him to court eight years ago after he dug a launch ramp through cliff walls at Doniford for a prototype hovercraft he had designed. He planned to take people on trips from West Somerset to South Wales, but the craft sank 20 yards from the shore on its maiden voyage. He was jailed for one month for contempt of court after refusing to repair the sea wall. He said he had enjoyed his stay in jail because it was better than a holiday camp.

Mr Coldwell was found dead at his flat on Saturday after an explosion which may have been linked to a gas camping stove. However, there has been no official confirmation of this.