THE cause of a fire which had baffled people for more than 50 years has finally been resolved thanks to a confession from beyond the grave.

On June 4, 1960, historic Marton Hall, in Stewart Park, Middlesbrough, burned to the ground in spectacular fashion and the authorities put the cause down to a discarded cigarette.

But now Pat Wilmot, 73, of Palmer Green, London, has told how her “full of mischief” late brother George Dinsdale, then only 13, was responsible.

It was the recent death of her brother that resulted in Mrs Wilmot revealing his secret five decades on.

Mr Dinsdale, who lived in Kensington Road, Middlesbrough, at the time, took his aunt’s pet jackdaw into the park without her permission and it flew off into the bushes.

The teenager, later an ambulance driver on Teesside , tried to smoke it out using lighted paper. The bushes, full of discarded ice cream papers, set alight and the fire burned down the nearby hall.

Mr Dinsdale, of Eden Road, Skelton , died in May, aged 64, after a battle against cancer.

He is survived by a son, Paul, of Guisborough , a granddaughter and many relatives on Teesside.

His sister said: “We’ve had this secret in our family for more than 50 years. My brother, George, always wanted to confess what he did by accident, but never got the chance, so that’s why I’m doing this for him.

“After losing the bird he tried to smoke it out of the bushes and this was when it all went wrong.

“He gathered the paper off the floor and made a paper torch and started to wave it about,” she said.

“The bird still wouldn’t come out and the next thing the ivy was on fire and it went up like a fireball and all he could do was watch as the nearby hall caught light and burned down.

“He never got the bird back and my Auntie Becky went mad when she found out it had gone.”

The confession has been welcomed by Tom Mawston, chairman of the Friends of Stewart Park and Marton ward councillor.

He said: “I’m stunned to hear this. What an amazing revelation after all these years. It’s an incident which has always been talked about in Middlesbrough by very many people and is part of the history of the park.”