Mother of girl who died in house fire says she turned to alcoholism

Mother of schoolgirl, 10, who died in house fire started by her suicidal father says tragedy almost killed her too as she turned to drink to cope

  • Paige Bolton, 10, died alongside father Garry in ‘deliberate’ house fire in Hull
  • Her mother, Cherie, 44, revealed she turned to alcoholism after their deaths 
  • The chilling last texts sent by Paige included her warning: ‘Daddy is scaring me’ 
  • For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116 123 or click here

The mother of a schoolgirl found dead in the bath with her suicidal father after a ‘deliberate’ house fire says the trauma of the incident nearly killed her too.

Garry Bolton and his ten-year-old daughter Paige died in a horrific house fire in north Hull on January 25 last year.

Paige’s distraught mother Cherie Rangeley, 44, has revealed how her life tragically slid into alcoholism as she struggled to cope with their deaths.

She said: ‘I nearly died because of all this as it tipped me over the edge.

‘I turned to drink and ended up in hospital. But I haven’t drank now for around ten months.’

Cherie Rangeley, 44, revealed how her life tragically slid into alcoholism as she struggled to cope with the deaths of her suicidal husband and 10-year-old daughter Paige (left)

‘Daddy is scaring me’: The final tragic text messages sent by 10-year-old Paige Bolton (pictured)  sent to her grandmother the night she died in house fire alongside her father Garry (pictured) were read out at an inquest

Crews had to break into the property using a saw and then discovered both Garry and Paige lying together in the bathtub. 

The inquest heard how Garry’s mental health seemed to have deteriorated having already suffered from anxiety, low self-esteem and paranoia.  

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service does not know exactly what caused the blaze but it believes the fire was deliberate.  

Texts from Paige that night to her grandmother and Garry’s mother Patricia Bolton said: ‘Daddy is scaring me. Why can’t you help me?’ Unfortunately, Mrs Bolton didn’t see the messages until the next morning. 

Assistant coroner Ian Sprakes also mentioned text messages Garry sent to former partner Cherie Rangeley, which he decided not to read out but said ‘amounted to a suicide note’.

In a tearful tribute to her daughter, mum Cherie said: ‘Paige was really funny but she could be stubborn and if she didn’t want to do something she wouldn’t do it.

‘I really just miss being able to say I love her. I just want to give her a big hug and be there for her.’

Independent fire investigator Dr Will Hutchinson carried out an investigation into the blaze. At the inquest, he said it was a smouldering fire which meant it took a number of hours to develop. 

He also indicated such a fire would produce lethal carbon monoxide almost immediately and it could take effect in a matter of minutes.

He ruled out the cause being due to any electrical equipment, wiring or batteries and said it would be due to something like a candle, matches or smoking materials.

The smoke alarm was also not working but he could not say for sure whether the fire had been caused accidentally or deliberately. 

However, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service station manager Richard Gibson said he believed the cause was deliberate. 

He said: ‘I believe the ignition was due to an unspecified naked flame. As the seat of the fire was in the centre of the bed, it leads me to believe it was deliberate.’ 

In a statement, Garry’s sister Tracey Bolton said her brother had suffered from bullying throughout school and in the workplace as an adult. 

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service station manager Richard Gibson said he believed the cause of the fire, which took the life of Paige and her father Garry (pictured), was deliberate

He left school at 16 and worked as a cabinet maker in the caravan industry where he was subjected to bullying. 

She said: ‘Garry was low on confidence and took the bullying to heart. He was a sensitive and shy man. He would not stand up for himself even as a grown man.’

Garry and partner Cherie Rangeley had twins Paige and Ethan in 2000 through IVF treatment. Sadly, Ethan died of a heart defect aged just six months which devastated Garry and Cherie. 

Tracey said in her statement: ‘The happiest I saw Garry was when he was holding his twins and smiling.’ 

Garry undertook a number of jobs but when he returned to cabinet making in the caravan industry the bullying began once more. 

He also claimed he was bullied in his own street and believed children at Paige’s school were teasing her and calling her father names.

But he started running and undertook parenting classes to try and improve his life.

He received counselling and support through various services and got involved in Cat Zero where he achieved some qualifications. He also volunteered at various organisations, including homeless charity Emmaus.

Next-door neighbour Andrew Harding said he could hear the pair talking in the bathroom through the wall at around 5am (scene pictured)

But, it seems his mental health began to go downhill once more in the months before his and Paige’s deaths. 

Tracey said: ‘Garry was a loving and devoted father to Paige who he absolutely adored and he always put her first.

‘He was thoughtful and caring. He was a gentle giant with a passive nature. He cared for his family but never really got over the death of Ethan.’ 

A neighbour gave evidence at the inquest saying he spoke to Garry over the fence from time to time but they were not close. 

On the day of the fire the neighbour said: ‘The sound proofing is poor so you can hear what is happening next door. 

‘That morning I woke up at around 5am and heard talking in the bathroom next door. I heard someone get into the bath but did not hear any water.

‘I then heard Garry and Paige talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying but they were also coughing. 

‘I went downstairs later and I could smell burning. I thought it was in my house. I checked the loft and it was dense with smoke but there was no fire. 

‘I realised at that point it was coming from next door. I ran outside and saw smoke coming from Garry’s bedroom window. I then called 999.

‘I was banging on the door and shouted their names through the letterbox. I went round the back and another neighbour tried the back door which was locked. 

‘There was now dark smoke billowing. I didn’t hear any shouting or screaming from inside. There was nothing.’ 

Garry received counselling and support for his mental health issues and cognitive behavioural therapy for his issues of low self-esteem, paranoia and anxiety.

Firefighter Richard Fowler described the rescue attempt that day in January and how a saw was needed to cut a hole in the front door to gain access. 

He said: ‘We went upstairs but there was zero visibility and extreme heat. A second team shouted that they had found a casualty. I grabbed the legs of a young girl and there were no signs of life. 

‘She was carried downstairs and we headed back up. We found a male in the bathtub and we needed help getting him downstairs. 

‘The fire itself was in the main bedroom. We were getting low on air and exited the property.’ 

Pathologist Michael Parsons carried out the post-mortem examination on Garry. Both Garry and Paige suffered smoke inhalation following the house fire. 

Toxicology reports found Garry had no alcohol or drugs in his system when he died. Dr Parsons told the inquest Garry died due to the effects of the house fire and the inhalation of ‘products of combustion’. 

It is likely he died within minutes and he was pronounced dead at the scene. While Paige was pulled from the property not breathing and with no heartbeat, paramedics rushed her to Hull Royal Infrimary in a last-ditch effort to save her life. 

Despite 45 minutes of resuscitation attempts, they were tragically unsuccessful. Professor Marta Cohen undertook the post-mortem on Paige and concluded she died of ‘inhalation of products of combustion’. 

Assistant coroner Ian Sprakes says he will need time to reflect on the evidence and will not rush to any conclusions. He is likely to take a ‘few weeks’ to come to his conclusion. 

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