A RETIRED policeman killed himself by setting his house on fire, an inquest heard.

Neighbours of 61-year-old Allan Campbell begged him to leave his home in Coniston Close, Belmont, near Durham City, when they saw smoke.

But he refused and stayed inside while the temperature rose to more than 1,000 degrees Celsius.

Neighbour John Dance forced open the front door of the house but was unable to get inside.

He said: "It was a blazing inferno. I screamed at him to get down but there was no appearance of him trying to get out."

Firefighters were called to the blaze at 2pm on October 13 last year and found Mr Campbell dead in his hallway.

An investigation established the fire was started deliberately in the lounge.

A post mortem examination revealed he died of smoke inhalation and suffered burns to the head and chest.

Reports also indicate he was heavily under the influence of alcohol at the time.

Mr Campbell retired from Durham Constabulary in the mid Eighties.

An inquest at Chester-le-Street Magistrates' Court on Tuesday heard he had been receiving mental health treatment for many years.

Ann Forbes, a social worker with the community mental health team, said she had spoken to Mr Campbell the morning of his death.

He had not mentioned any suicidal intentions during their conversation but called back to speak to her after she left the office.

North Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle recorded a verdict that Mr Campbell wanted to take his own life.