Thursday, May 01, 2014

Chain-smoking woman's ritual unfurling of 150 rolls of toilet paper a week blamed for death fire

A woman's "strange, obsessive ritual" of unfurling 150 rolls of toilet paper a week while chain-smoking sparked a fire that killed her and two others, a coroner has ruled. Andree Cote had been a depressed recluse for seven years in her Quebec City apartment when the building went up in flames on April 3, 2012. Cote, her boyfriend Michel Gagnon and an unidentified woman were killed.

Cote suffered from incontinence "coupled with an inordinate fear of running out of toilet paper" and would sit on the toilet for hours, coroner Martin Clavet said. She would unroll "a phenomenal amount of toilet paper that she placed around her on the floor, to the point of reaching the height of the sink cabinet," the report says.

Even more worrisome, Clavet said, was the fact Cote chain-smoked during the ritual. Her obsession proved deadly when a cigarette ignited the toilet paper mountain, torching the apartment in seconds and trapping Cote and partner Michel Gagnon. The third victim died a few months later in hospital.

The coroner questioned the work of Cote's family doctor. He noted that she hadn't visited her doctor since July 2009 "yet her drugs continued to be prescribed and used" until her death. "We could well question the quality of the clinical evaluation of the woman's health," the coroner wrote. He urged Quebec's college of physicians to investigate.

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