AN ELDERLY woman has died in the second fatal house fire in Oxfordshire in less than a week believed to have been caused by a cigarette.

Firefighters were unable to save the woman, named locally as 88-year-old Anne Pickett, when they were called to her hosuing association bungalow in St Hugh’s Close, Banbury, at 6.43pm on Tuesday.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Thames Valley Police are investigating the cause of the blaze, which is believed to have been started by a cigarette.

Phil Freeman tried to rescue his neighbour when he saw black smoke pouring out of the bungalow.

The 78-year-old, who lives next door with his disabled wife Jean, 77, said: “I ran out and was kicking the door yelling ‘Anne, Anne, Anne’.

“I ran back in and rang 999 and they came within 10 minutes.

“I banged on the window but there was no response.”

He added: “I smelled the fire and went into action straight away, but there was nothing I could do.”

Mr Freeman’s daughter Pauline and her husband Ian Baggaley, of Manor Road, said they were concerned when they heard about the fire as Mrs Freeman is disabled and relies on a wheelchair.

Mr Baggaley, 58, who had known Mrs Pickett all his life as they were former neighbours in Daventry Road, said: “It is frightening.”

He paid tribute to the dead woman saying: “She was a very outgoing, lively person who was the head of the family. She was a very strong personality.”

He said she and her husband Dennis, who passed away years ago, had one son. The couple set up a haulage company together and then a taxi firm.

Of the blaze, he added: “I hope for her sake she was unconcious when it happened. It is horrifying.”

The bungalow in the cul-de-sac is owned by Sanctury Housing.

Christa Ripley, local head of housing operations for Sanctuary, said: “We are doing all we can to assist Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in their investigations.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”

l On Wednesday last week, 62-year-old mum-of-three Christine Fullwood died in a blaze at her home in Thame.

An inquest into her death opened yesterday. The fire is believed to have been started by a cigarette.