FRANTIC neighbours battered down the door of a Hampshire man as his home billowed with smoke.

The resident broke in with a sledgehammer, scouring the house as flames spread from the upstairs windows.

Minutes before emergency services arrived, concerned neighbours ‘desperately’ tried to wake the man as flames engulfed the rooms at the top of the house.

Despite their efforts and those of emergency services, the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fire crews were called to the property on Escombe Road in Bishopstoke at 6.50am on Saturday.

Neighbours tried to get the man out of the house, but were unable to, before firefighters took over at the scene.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said after seeing the smoke, he grabbed a sledgehammer from a building project, battered down the front door and tried to search for the man inside.

He said: “I was up from 6am and was going to get some breakfast and I saw the smoke coming out of the windows. I grabbed the sledgehammer and broke down the door and went into the bottom rooms.

“If you hadn’t have seen the flames from outside, you’d never have known there was a fire from looking at the lounge. I would have gone upstairs but you couldn’t see anything, the smoke was like a thick black curtain looking up.

“I was banging and trying to wake him up, and my wife phoned the emergency services. They were here within about ten minutes. I just wish I could have done more.”

Another resident said she went to school with the man. She added: “He was a lovely chap who wouldn’t have hurt a fly. He kept himself to himself and would always say hello. It’s so sad that this has happened here.”

Police have not formally identified the man, with a file being prepared for the coroner.

A statement from Hampshire Constabulary said: “We are working with our colleagues at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service to investigate the circumstances of the fire, but we do not believe these to be suspicious at the current time.”