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Spontaneous Human Combustion May Have Killed a London Man in Broad Daylight

A strange death of a man in London has now been declared “unexplained” and police are asking for the public’s help. The mysterious incident happened in September when 70-year old retired construction worker John Nolan seemed to spontaneously burst into flames in broad daylight on a North London street in front of numerous witnesses. Nolan was pronounced dead by the time he reached hospital, leaving a macabre and unsolved mystery behind. Could this be a case of spontaneous human combustion?

Police released this photo of Nolan.

Nolan was originally from County Cork, Ireland.

Judging from the results of the police inquiry, it very well could be. Like in other cases of suspected spontaneous human combustion, medical examiners have found no evidence of chemical accelerant or flammable substances on Nolan’s body. London police are so far stumped, issuing a statement saying there is no suspicion of foul play or arson, adding to the mystery:

We have spoken with a number of witnesses who saw Mr Nolan ablaze, but we have yet to establish how the fire started. Mr Nolan was a well-liked member of the community and none of our enquiries so far have indicated that he had been involved in a dispute of any sort. Nor does any account given by witnesses suggest that he had been in contact with another person at the time of the fire.

Police have turned to the public for any information on Nolan’s death. So far, this incident certainly fits the bill of spontaneous human combustion, one of the weirdest medical anomalies out there. There are numerous documented reports of people appearing to catch fire from the inside out, burning incredibly quickly and sometimes leaving little remains behind. In a few strange cases, these seemingly spontaneous fires left the victims’ surroundings virtually untouched. Despite having photographic and forensic evidence of these anomalous combustion events, medical researchers have yet to reach a consensus on what may be behind these strange deaths.

It's claimed that in cases of SHC, nearby objects often go untouched because fire tends to burn upward rather than laterally.

It’s claimed that in cases of SHC, nearby objects often go untouched because fire tends to burn upward rather than laterally.

Theories naturally abound, many of which involve alcohol in the bloodstream or a so-called ‘wick effect’ in which body fat is thought to be absorbed into clothing, turning victims into giant candles. Could these explain what exactly happened to John Nolan? As in other cases of alleged spontaneous human combustion, we’ll likely never know.

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.
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