Relatives of the woman whose body was found in a fire-ravaged house at Sedgeford have been left puzzled by the cause of the blaze.
In an exclusive interview with the Lynn News, Adrian Faulkner, 57, and his sister, Helen, 60, said their artist mother, Elsie, 86, had always been “safety conscious”.
This week, fire investigation officers identified a portable halogen heater as the probable cause of Sunday’s blaze and police said investigations had established that it was not suspicious.
Mr Faulkner and his sister said that although their mother lived alone, she had cooked for herself and done her own washing, ironing and house cleaning.
Mr Faulkner said: “She was scrupulous about taking plugs out. There were never any naked lights in the house and the circuitry was not overloaded. It seems unlikely to us that it was a heater because of this. We find it baffling because of her safety-conscious mind.”
Ms Faulkner said everything had been destroyed in the house, and added: “It would have been totally out of character for mum to leave something on like that.”
Sedgeford blaze victim Elsie Faulkner enjoyed living in the village so much that she decided to stay there after her husband died five years ago.
She and her late husband, Gordon, had moved to the quiet village 35 years ago after falling in love with the converted chapel in Holly Hill, which was destroyed in Sunday’s fire.
And when Mr Faulkner died, their son Adrian, 57, asked if she would like to move to his London home to be with him, his wife, Mary, and daughters, Cara, 25, and Kathleen, 21.
Speaking in Sedgeford yesterday, with his sister Helen, 60, beside him, Mr Faulkner said: “She didn’t want to move because she liked it here so much.
“People here liked her because she was a cheerful person and she became more benevolent as she grew older.
“I spoke to her the night before she died and she said, ‘I’m well looked after’. She had a constant, but not intrusive, support here and said people couldn’t do enough for her. It was very noticeable.”
Ms Faulkner, who flew back from New York after learning of her mother’s death, said: “She was immovable, both from here and the house. She loved Sedgeford and felt secure here.”
Mr Faulkner, who works as a driver, said his mother spent four days over Christmas at his home to be with her granddaughters before he drove her back on Thursday.
He said: “It was a nice last week she had and if she hadn’t made it down for Christmas, it would have been a lot worse for us to take in. The granddaughters have a nice memory of her as well.
“She was losing her memory but not her marbles. You could have a good conversation with her but she had a poor short-term memory.”
Ms Faulkner, who is married, lives in Brighton and works as a charity administrator in London, had gone to New York to celebrate her 60th birthday and see in the new year.
She said: “I had only been there two days when I got the email from Adrian on Sunday.
“The same day we heard that my husband’s mother had died in her sleep that morning at Bury St Edmunds so we came back straight away.”
Elsie Faulkner was born at Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester, and met her husband when he was stationed at Oldham doing his national service.
They were married in 1947 – the same year as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh – at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, near Mr Faulkner’s home, and moved to Brighton to attend art college.
After completing their studies, they became art teachers at different secondary schools in the Brighton area, where Adrian and Helen were born.
Ms Faulkner said: “Mum worked in mosaics and various other media during the 1950s and ‘60s, and after that mainly in watercolours on flowers and botanical subjects.
“She had been quite politically active in her younger years and she had read widely.
“She very much enjoyed music, particularly chamber, classical and jazz music, which will be reflected at her funeral at Mintlyn Crematorium this month.”
In 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, the couple sold their home in the resort, as they no longer needed to support their children, and moved to the former chapel in Sedgeford which offered plenty of space for an art studio.
Ms Faulkner said her parents got a card from the Queen and Prince Philip in 2007 marking their diamond wedding anniversary in the same year.
Friends and neighbours have remembered Elsie Faulkner for her quiet friendliness and artistic talent.
Mrs Faulkner retired to Sedgeford from Brighton with her late husband Gordon almost 30 years ago.
The couple created an artist’s studio on the first floor of the converted chapel, which was destroyed in Sunday’s fire.
Mr Faulkner, who was also a noted artist, gave lessons in the studio to people from the village and the surrounding area.
Mrs Faulkner, a talented painter in her own right, will also be remembered by his students and local artists who used the studio.
A neighbour and former pupil of Mr Faulkner, Mrs Pin Armitage, said: “Elsie was a lovely person and a very good artist. She was quiet and gentle.
“She was often downstairs when Gordon was giving lessons and would come up. She did lovely paintings of flowers. She had a really good sense of humour too.”
Bill Armitage, 81, said: “Elsie was quite well-known among the older inhabitants of the village.”
The couple said they were shocked to find out about the fire when they woke on Sunday morning to discover firefighters in action nearby.
Mrs Armitage, 71, said there had been a great deal of concern as firefighters tried to confirm Mrs Faulkner’s whereabouts.
Another former pupil of Mr Faulkner recalled Mrs Faulkner sharing a cup of tea with students during art lessons in the studio.
She said: “She was a dear, sweet little old lady. What happened was a dreadful shock. It was a horrible thing to happen.”
Dersingham artist Julia Quance, who also went to the chapel for tuition and took part in several exhibitions with Mr Faulkner, said: “I learned a good deal from Elsie as much as from Gordon. She was a beautiful artist in her own right.”