BY dousing herself and the sofa she was sitting on in petrol, a 44-year-old manic depressive started a blaze that killed both her and her mother. Her two children had to be rescued by firemen from an upstairs bedroom window, an inquest was told last Tuesday.

But the Coroner, Mr Andrew Bradley, said that because only an unspent match was found by the body of Aaamina Hussein, also known as Audrey Bowyer, he could not be sure that she deliberately started the blaze. He had been told that the fire brigade believed there was an explosion caused by petrol vapour reaching the pilot light for the central heating boiler.

He recorded an open verdict on Mrs Hussein but said that her mother, 78-year-old Elizabeth Sellers, who lived in the same house in Belle Vue Road, Aldershot, was unlawfully killed. She was brought out of the blaze by firemen but died in hospital from severe burns and smoke inhalation.

Mr Bradley said had Mrs Hussein lived she would undoubtedly be looking at charges of arson or manslaughter. She had acted with a total disregard for the safety of the other people in the house. Her 17-year-old son,Mervyn Bowyer, and one-year-old daughter, Halima, were unharmed. The Coroner was told by Aamina's sister, Maureen Kemp, that the dead woman had been treated as a manic-depressive since first trying to commit suicide in 1982.

She said that three or four years ago her sister had gone to Kenya and she had met a man called Alex who was 26 "and lived in a mud hut." She had eventually married him, changed her name and become a Muslim. But she had not been able to bring Alex to England.

Mrs Kemp said her elderly mother had not wanted to continue to house Aamina and her family.

"My mother was so fit and healthy," she said. "It is not fair. They should not have let her out."

The Coroner was told that Aamina had most recently been admitted to the Ridgewood Centre at Camberley last July. A psychiatric nurse who made regular visits to the family home said that two weeks before the blaze Mrs Hussein told her that she had stopped taking her medication. But there did not seem to be any cause for concern and she said she felt human again.