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War veteran killed by children's prank: Open verdict on pensioner who was taunted by gang

A WAR veteran was asphyxiated in his house after children blocked his chimney pot with a piece of wood in a 'prank that went wrong', an inquest was told yesterday.

John Logan, 73, of Maryport, Cumbria, who lost an arm at the Battle of Arnhem during the Second World War, was called 'Bandit' by a gang of children who harassed and taunted him.

On previous occasions, some of them had climbed on to his roof and put wood on the chimney, laughing when he ran out with a smoke-blackened face to chase them away. But on the day Mr Logan died, last May, the wood prevented fumes escaping and he suffered asphyxia due to carbon monoxide poisoning, the inquest at Workington in Cumbria was told.

John Taylor, the deputy coroner of west Cumbria, said the children involved were below the age of criminal responsibility. The boy who put the wood on the chimney, blocking it, was nine years old.

'I don't think for a minute that the boy meant any harm. He was involved in a game of play with the hope that Mr Logan would come out and chase him,' Mr Taylor said. He recorded an open verdict, describing the incident as 'a child's prank that went wrong'.

The inquest was told that the children threw stones at Mr Logan's house so often that at one time all his windows were boarded up. His war medals and his Parachute Regiment beret were stolen, and a fire investigator, John Ward, said the interior of the house was coated with soot, probably as a result of the chimney pranks.

Mr Logan was found dead in a chair by the fire when police broke in three days after he had last been seen. A bottle of whisky was found by his side. A post- mortem examination found 335mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, more than four times the legal driving limit. The carbon monoxide saturation of 73 per cent was described as lethal.

Police officers questioned several children and a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, but it was found there was insufficient evidence to start court proceedings against them.

A police statement by the boy who put the final piece of wood over the chimney was read out at the inquest. He had said: 'I saw another boy climb on to the Bandit's roof and put a piece of wood on his chimney to see if he would come out with soot on his face and chase us with a poker. He came out and shouted at him, but afterwards I went up and put another piece of wood in place of the other. My dad shouted at me and my mam grounded me.'

Mr Logan's eldest daughter, Hazel Holdaway, of Gravesend, Kent, said the verdict was 'disgusting . . .I think the law is all wrong. I am going to take legal advice to see if further action can be taken. The law has to be changed, otherwise how else can we stop them doing it again?'

(Photograph omitted)