A BRITISH expat who died in a fire on the Costa del Sol was locked in his home from the inside.
Paul Aust, 50, died after a mystery blaze engulfed the apartment he shared with his partner of 20 years, in upmarket Alcaidesa, on December 30.
The Olive Press understands police are probing the circumstances behind the death, which came just hours after he had rowed with his partner Ben Lake.
According to the next door neighbour, Lake, in his 40s, sat in the back garden while the fire took hold.
“I watched him sitting in the garden as smoke poured out the windows,” said the neighbour, who asked not to be named.
“He seemed not entirely there, like he was in shock or something. When I went down and asked him directly if he needed help, he just ignored me,” he added.
Other neighbours backed up the claims that the pair had had a serious row just two hours before the 2am blaze.
“We were woken up by a series of shouts and doors slamming soon after midnight,” said a Spanish woman, who lived upstairs.
“Then less than two hours later we were woken by a huge fire coming from their apartment.
“We were told that it is lucky we got out as the smoke could have killed us too,” she added.
Neighbours called urbanisation security who were unable to break down the front door of the house due to its four locks.
One neighbour told the Olive Press that he had also called the fire brigade who arrived 20 minutes later and rescued both men along with their dog. Aust was seen in his underpants getting into an ambulance a few minutes later.
“I didn’t see a single burn mark on his body, he was a tall man wearing only his boxers and there wasn’t a single mark on him,” said one.
He was proclaimed dead just a few hours later, allegedly of a heart attack.
The pair, who had first arrived in Spain five years ago, lived in Frigiliana and ran a sandwich bar in Nerja.
They moved to Alcaidesa four years ago, when Aust allegedly landed a job at Gibraltar’s prestigious Rock Hotel.
They certainly appeared to have had a tempestuous relationship with neighbours frequently hearing them arguing.
“It was an almost everyday thing,” said the Irish neighbour.
When the Olive Press located boyfriend Lake, back in England, he insisted the fire was an accident caused by a cigarette butt and Paul was ‘never trapped’.
He insisted the pair had exited the house ‘at the same time’, while he fought the fire with a hose from the garden and shouted for the dog.
“Paul and I were both out in the garden together while the fire department fought the blaze. He was then taken to the ambulance.”
A family friend of Aust said his family in Bath were ‘inconsolable’.