A "Jekyll and Hyde character" father with a history of mental illness is believed to have been behind the house fire in which three members of the same family died, an inquest has heard.
Harold Philpotts is believed to have bludgeoned his ten-year-old son Ben with a sledgehammer as he lay in his bed on January 18, 2010, before the devastating blaze, which also claimed the life of his estranged 44-year-old wife, Patricia Philpotts. Harold Philpotts fled the property in Trevarrian, Newquay, only to die from his injuries days later.
At an inquest into their deaths, which opened yesterday in Truro, Mrs Philpotts's mother Betty Bantock read a statement which described her son-in-law as a "Jekyll and Hyde character" with a history of hypochondria, including being convinced he had HIV and cancer. The hearing was told Mr Philpotts, also known as Harry, was a regular visitor to the bungalow at weekends but was unhappy about the prospect of having to return to his flat on the morning of the incident – his 47th birthday.
Mrs Bantock told police: "I can only assume that Pat had a few words with Harry to go back to his flat. He never wanted to go back."
Moments later, Mrs Bantock said she heard "a terrific explosion" that sounded "like a bomb going off".
Emergency services were called but could not save Mrs Philpotts or her son. The inquest heard there were two petrol cans found in Mrs Philpotts' room where the fire is believed to have started, while a sledgehammer weighing 7.4kg was found in Ben's bed.
The three-day inquest continues.