An expert forensic fire investigator told jurors at the Old Bailey that in his opinion, the fire that killed an 88-year-old woman was caused by a firework. 

Ian Peck told the trial of Kai Cooper today (February 10): "In my opinion, it was most likely that the fire had been caused by the lit 'mega blast' firework."

The jury was shown photographs of the fire damage inside the home of Josephine Smith, 88. 

Mrs Smith was found dead from smoke inhalation in Queens Park Road, Harold Wood, on October 28, 2021.

Mr Peck testified that a spent 'mega blast' firework casing was found on a mat in the hallway.

An examination of the letterbox found some bristles inside had melted, "indicating that a heat source has been in close contact," he added.

The jury had earlier heard witness Lauren Delossantos testify that Mr Cooper had dared a younger boy to post a firework through somebody's letterbox that night.

Mr Cooper, 19, of Cleve Road in Leatherhead, Surrey, denies that. He claims the boy's actions were unilateral.


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Mrs Smith's kitchen suffered the worst damage, the court heard.

Mr Peck said the seat of the fire appeared to have been a fridge, but tests had ruled out any "misuse or malfunction" as a cause.

He believed flaming particles from the firework got behind the fridge and caused the blaze.

It ultimately burned through the ceiling and began burning through the floor and carpet upstairs, the court heard.

In the bedroom where Mrs Smith was found, there was "smoke and soot staining", jurors were told.


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Mr Peck said 'mega blast' fireworks produced "two explosive events", about ten seconds apart. 

In each, he testified, "combustible materials explode from the tube", creating "flaming particles". 

He conducted tests using the same make and model of firework inside a shipping container around 15 metres in length, the court heard, and witnessed the particles "bouncing around".

"I have no concerns that a firework set off at that front door would produce particles in that kitchen," he said. 


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Mr Cooper does not dispute that the firework caused the fire.

He also accepts that Mrs Smith's death was a manslaughter.

He only disputes that he carries any responsibility for it.

The trial continues.