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French Woman Reduced To Ashes

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French Woman Reduced To Ashes and a Slippered Foot


BY: Susannah Herbert

The Sidney Morning Herald: Saturday, December 12, 1998





French police scientists are investigating their first suspected case of"spontaneous combustion" · an elderly woman reduced to a small pile of ashes and a slippered foot while sitting at home in an armchair.


The remains of Gisele, a 67-year-old widow whose surname was not released, were discovered on November 17 [1998] in a farmhouse near Honfleur, 150 kilometres north-east of Paris, where she lived alone.


Police found no signs of a break-in and said the house appeared untouched by fire although the chair in which the woman apparently had been sitting had been reduced to ashes, a number of tiles had cracked and there were soot traces on the living room walls and ceiling.


The only recognisably human remains were an ankle and foot, still in its slipper.


The director of Lille's police laboratory, Mr Michel Savart, said he had no idea what could have caused the fire.


"The problem is that a fire hot enough to reduce a body to ashes like this can also destroy all evidence relating to the cause.


"We've never had a case of spontaneous combustion in France. We don't have all the facts or the circumstances of the incident."


Studies have shown that a fire needs to reach temperatures of 600c to consume a human body entirely.

The most celebrated case of spontaneous combustion took place in Florida in 1951 and has striking similarities to the Honfleur case.


A 67-year-old woman was reduced to ash, but cotton sheets and a pile of papers in the same room remained unscathed. All that remained of her was her spinal column and a slippered foot.


About 300 cases described as spontaneous human combustion have been recorded.


· The Telegraph, London





Research Topics - Spontaneous Combustion
Event: 1998-11-17; France, Honfleur


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