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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Judge explosion death 'a mystery'
Andrew Chubb
Judge Chubb was being blackmailed by his mistress, his wife said
A judge who died in an explosion in his garden shed neither committed suicide nor was murdered, a coroner has ruled.

A second inquest on Andrew Chubb found the cause of death at his home near Chard, Somerset, was "unascertained".

The judge had asked his wife of 34 years, Jennifer, for a divorce hours before his death in 2001, the five-day inquest in Glastonbury has heard.

His wife told police that his mistress, Kerry Sparrow, was blackmailing the 58-year-old judge - a claim she denied.

Ms Sparrow has been pushing for the second inquest for six years - and won a High Court battle last year for fresh evidence to be heard.

Not enough proof

Coroner Sheriff Payne returned a narrative verdict on Friday, overturning the first verdict of accidental death.

"It has not been possible to determine whether [Mr Chubb] was disabled from escaping by the effects of the products of combustion or any other means," he said.

"Both the means and the cause of his death remain unascertained.

It is likely that the fire was caused or accelerated by the ignition of petrol vapour
Sheriff Payne

"Evidence that might indicate that he had expressed thoughts of harming himself fall far below proof beyond doubt that is the standard request for the conclusion that he deliberately took his own life."

He also discounted any suggestion that Judge Chubb was killed by his wife or any other third party.

It would have been virtually impossible for her to "disable" him and set fire to the shed.

Mrs Chubb now lives in Australia and did not attend the hearing.

But Ms Sparrow, a legal executive from Portsmouth, gave evidence at the inquest, saying she thought her lover had not killed himself and refusing to accept his death was accidental.

Kerry Sparrow (l) and Jennifer Chubb

After the inquest she said: "The coroner has considered all of the available evidence. I will probably never know for sure what happened on the night Andrew died.

"I sincerely hope that no one else has to go through what I have been through and I hope that my fight encourages other people to seek the truth.

"Andrew passionately believed in justice and I know that he would feel that I have got justice for him."

Mr Payne added that it was a mystery why Judge Chubb had closed the doors to the shed and why he had not tried to escape from the fire.

"It is likely that the fire was caused or accelerated by the ignition of petrol vapour.

"There was no electricity or gas supply to the shed. No match or means of fire-lighting were found."

He said the judge did not smoke or carry matches and no-one had heard any attempt by him to start the sit-on lawnmower.

Avon and Somerset Police admitted shortcomings in the initial inquiry, but said there was "no chance" it would reopen.

What do we know of Andrew Chubb?

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