One of UK's first gay marriages led to battle over will then murder probe when husband arrested


ONE of the country's first ever gay marriages led to a court battle over a will and a subsequent murder probe after the older of the two men perished in a mysterious home fire. John Allen, 86, (pictured above) died in hospital after being rescued from his bungalow by firefighters after a fire started in the bedroom of his husband Martin Hallowes in the middle of the night, Ipswich Coroners Court heard. Mr Hallowes, aged in his 60s, failed to call 999 or remove his older bed-bound, dementia suffering husband from the bungalow. He, instead took the "irrational" decision of trying to extinguish the fire himself with a plastic basin filled with water, despite it being wildly out of control. Coroner Jacqueline Devonish said: "He discovered the fire before it had spread and took no rational steps to leave the property with John Allen or to raise the alarm. "Instead, he gave an account of attempting to tackle the blaze in his bedroom himself. "Mr Hallowes was the only person in a position to prevent the death of his husband. "He admits that he failed to take any steps to call emergency services, the Home Emergency Alarm Response Service or to remove Mr Allen from the property. "The death of the elderly and disabled Mr Allen might possibly have been prevented had Mr Hallowes acted rationally by calling emergency services, or calling upon his neighbours for help to extricate Mr Allen." Mr Hallowes said he understood why his actions sounded irrational, but insisted he was trying to stop the fire, and his thought processes may have been affected by smoke inhilation and panic. The court heard Mr Hallowes had been delivering Meals on Wheels to Mr Allen, who had limited mobility, but continued to visit him after he cancelled the service and their friendship turned into a relationship. However, the subsequent marriage on October 1 2014 was kept a secret from Mr Allen's relatives and was only discovered by his GP in December 2014, who then informed Mr Allen's nephew David Geaves he was no longer Mr Allen's next of kin. Mr Allen's family took the case to the Court of Protection, in a bid to get Mr Hallowes removed as executor of his estate, after Mr Hallowes had changed the locks to prevent them visiting. Ms Devonish said: "Martin Hallowes had been accused of a sham marriage and of isolating John Allen from his family." The family believed Mr Hallowes married him for financial reasons and Mr Allen, who was displaying early signs of dementia did not have mental capacity to enter into marriage. Ms Devonish added: "Mr Hallowes explained that the marriage was amongst the first of gay marriages under the David Cameron Government. "Mr Allen wanted to keep his homosexuality private, and did not want his family to know and did not inform them of the marriage." The coroners court heard the Court of Protection had ordered Mr Hallowes to submit various financial documents in relation to the marriage by a date in April 2016. However, the fire started in the early hours of March 30 2016, in Mr Hallowes bedroom where he kept all these documents and an amount of cash under the bed. Mr Hallowes told the court he awoke in the night to an acrid smell and checked the kitchen, which was fine. But, when he returned to the room he saw flames spreading across the carpet to his bed. Instead of shutting the door, which would have slowed the spread, calling 999, and trying to get Mr Allen to safety, he made trips between the bathroom and the fire with a plastic basin of water to try to douse the flames. He also opened the front door, which fed the fire with more oxygen, and removed bedding from his room to place outside. He said he tried to open patio doors in Mr Allen's room, but the handle snapped, and even after seeing flames had spread to his husband's ceiling, he left him in bed and said he would continue to tackle the blaze. Two neighbours called 999 after a window exploded. Firefighters arrived within three to five minutes and found Mr Hallowes on the floor near the front door. Mr Allen died in hospital with the cause given as smoke inhilation. The fire destroyed all of the papers Mr Hallowes had been due to hand in to court Police arrested Mr Hallowes on suspicion of murder after his family alerted them to the court of protection case. The CPS refused to bring charges after five fire investigators were unable to establish the cause of the fire. It was thought to have either been started deliberately or accidentally, but no firm evidence could be found for either. No evidence of any accelerant was found. Ms Devonish said: "DCI Miller led the investigation into the Geaves family allegations against Mr Hallowes for murder following the fire. "They believed that Mr Hallowes had preyed upon John Allen for his money. "The experts were unable to produce sufficient evidence to prove a case against Mr Hallowes beyond reasonable doubt, even with the inconsistencies in his account, and she could not therefore pursue the criminal case. "This is quite understandably devasting for the family, who believe very strongly that something was amiss." Ms Devonish recorded a narrative verdict that: "Mr Allen died in a house fire in circumstances in which the cause of the fire is unknown." She said: "I do not know on the evidence whether this death was an accident because the cause of the fire remains unknown. Neither do I know whether the fire was started deliberately and if so by whom."

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