A WOMAN with alcohol problems who was sent to jail to prevent her from attempting suicide by setting fire to herself died in a house blaze she may have started deliberately.

Stephanie Locke, aged 24, died from 60 per cent burns in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, in September 2004 following the blaze at her home in Liverpool Road, Ronkswood.

At an inquest into her death yesterday, Worcestershire Coroner Victor Round said despite previous suicide bids involving fire, he could not be sure the flames that finally killed her were deliberate.

Her father died in a house fire 22 years earlier, and this had had a profound impact on her, said Mr Round

In June 2004, she started a fire to commit suicide, she told the rescuing firefighters. She was charged with arson and intent to endanger the lives of next door neighbours.

The following month she had to be rescued after setting a mattress alight. This time she was remanded in custody to stop her harming herself.

She was granted bail, on condition she lived with her mother and fully complied with specialists assessing her mental state.

On Wednesday, August 25, at around 7.30pm, Ms Locke went to the convenience store on Prestwich Avenue and bought a bottle of vodka.

Just before 10pm, next door neighbour, Michelle Tyrer heard something like furniture being moved around in Stephanie's house. Then she heard a thud and Mrs Locke say "help me."

She rang 999 and two police officers arrived, entered the property and managed to rescue Stephanie from the bedroom before fire and ambulance crews arrived.

She died days later in hospital.

Forensic expert Malcolm Payne concluded it was most likely the fire was started deliberately, but could not exclude the possibility it was started by a still-lit cigarette.

"The cause of the fire has not been precisely ascertained, so I am going to record an open verdict," concluded Mr Round.