Homeless man killed in fire

ASHLEIGH STEWART AND DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 17:04 11/04/2013
Peterborough St fire
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
CAUTIOUS: Firefighters enter the gutted Peterborough St home after it was destroyed by fire.

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Police have named the man whose body was found in a house fire in Peterborough Street on Tuesday.

He was Terence James Palmer, also known as Terry Baker, 62, a man with no job or home.

A post-mortem found Baker died from smoke inhalation as a result of the fire although police say there were signs of an assault.

Baker had more than 300 criminal convictions, including for assault, but most of his offending was for stealing booze, disorderly behaviour, or breaches of the liquor ban.

He once tried to defend himself by reading a statement in court. When he got tired of the reading, he simply said "doo-dah" repeatedly. This became known around the courts as "the doo-dah defence". It didn't work.

The earthquake-damaged central-city property where he was found dead was used by vagrants as a shelter.

The body was found while firefighters were dampening down hot spots after the blaze was put out.

An investigator said based on initial findings from the scene, there was nothing to suggest the fire was suspicious.

"However the investigation is ongoing and we are continuing to interview witnesses. We are not yet in a position to make a final determination on how the fire started," he said.

Palmer's body was found in an upstairs room of the front flat at the property, an older-style weatherboard house that had been converted into flats.

Both front flats were extensively damaged by the fire, while the rear single-storey flat was relatively undamaged.

The property is in private ownership, but was vacant after quake damage.

The flats were known to have been used by vagrants, and police have been called to clear people from the property in the past.

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- The Press

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