Coroner to examine mystery death of burns victim Heather Bills


Auckland woman Heather Bills died six weeks after her house went up in flames – but it wasn’t her burns that killed her.

Four years on from the tragic death of Heather Bills, the door to solving the mystery has been reopened.

In 2013, the Auckland woman died while recovering from extensive burns she suffered in a huge and “explosive” fire at her home six weeks earlier.

At the time it was confirmed that it wasn’t the burns that killed her.

Now, her death will be the subject of a coroner’s inquest to determine exactly what it was that ended her life. 

READ MORE: Police probe mystery death of burns victim

The 65-year-old lived in a luxurious three-storey house in the upmarket suburb of Orakei and ran a successful business as a tutor. 

On November 23 2012 a huge fire ripped through her home.

It was so powerful that it moved an entire wall and spat her car out of the garage and on to the road. 

She was rescued by neighbours who braved the intense heat of the blaze to save Bills and her two dogs. 

Bills died in Middlemore Hospital where she was being treated for burns to her legs. Police told the fire service her death was not caused by her burns. 

At the time police confirmed they were interviewing a number of people including family members and medical staff in relation to their investigation. 

“Police are awaiting the results of forensic testing before making a determination as to whether the death will be referred to the coroner or subject to further investigation,” Counties Manukau Detective Inspector Dave Lynch said in 2013. 

When approached by Stuff, ex-husband Jack Bills said the family had moved on with their lives and did not want to speculate whether or not her death was accidental. 

“It was a tragic event and we all just want to move on,” he said. 

A fire investigation report released under the Official Information Act showed there were four 10-litre plastic petrol containers found in the burned out remains of Bills’ house and the flammable liquid had been “splashed and spread in a haphazard manner on each floor”.

“The fuel has then been allowed to vaporise for some time before ignition has occurred. This has created an extremely dangerous situation,” the report stated, in explaining the explosive nature of the fire.

“[Bills] had suffered extensive burns and smoke inhalation, and did not want to leave the premises, stating that she wanted to die. It appears the fire and consequently her physical condition had been triggered by a domestic situation.”

Police would not comment on the case while it was in the coroner’s hands.

 – Stuff

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