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Stardust fire may have begun in hot press

An expert witness has told the Stardust inquests that a fire, in its early stages, could have developed in the hot press in the main bar without it being noticed by staff.

Dr Will Hutchinson was giving evidence for a sixth day at the Dublin District Coroner’s Court.

He has been retained by the coroner to give his opinion on the possible cause and origin of the fire. Forty-eight people died in the 1981 disaster in the Artane nightclub

Under questioning from Patricia Dillon, SC, representing Dublin City Council he said that if the fire started in the hot press cabinet, then it would “channel upwards” like a chimney and the heat and smoke would be gone.

He said it could develop in the first few minutes without making a sound and that the music in the club could also cover it up.

He said he believed a fire could develop in the hot press without it being noticed at an early stage.

The court has heard that the main bar was closed to patrons at around 1am in the morning, around 40 minutes before the fire was first seen inside, and that some staff continued to do some work in there.

Dr Hutchinson told the court he was suggesting that the fire started in the hot press and spread into the ceiling void above, where it then transitioned over to the west alcove where it was first observed.

He said he did not think it necessarily had to a “long time frame” for that to happen.

Dr Hutchinson also said it would be “very difficult to say” when the fire in hot press started if it did originate there, and also agreed that the burn damage on the hot press demonstrated “more severe” burning compared to the rest of the main bar.

The court heard there was evidence from two witnesses who said there was a smell in the area of the main bar in the early hours before the fire was first reported inside.

Earlier, the court was shown photos of the hot press taken in the aftermath of the blaze which showed there were ceiling tiles missing above it.

The jury was then shown another photo which “seemingly” showed the tiles had been reinstated.

Dr Hutchinson was asked if he knew why that would have happened. “No, I don’t,” he said.

Under questioning from the legal team representing the family of Marie Kennedy, Dr Hutchison agreed again that there was no evidence to suggest that the fire was started deliberately.

The inquests continue.

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