A HAMPSHIRE car dealer tried to take out a £1m life insurance policy before he died in an inferno in his BMW outside his home, it has been revealed.

Graham Lowe, known to friends and family as “Ralphy”, set fire to himself at home in his BMW in February.

But it has emerged that the 57-year-old and his business partner had tried to take out £1m insurance on each other’s lives months before his death.

An inquest into his death was told that Mr Lowe, a partner in the Cars of Swanwick dealership in Park Gate, had been unsuccessful in his bid for insurance.

That is something his business partner Peter Harvell believed triggered a spiral into depression.

“We decided to insure each other for £1m so that if anything happened to me, my wife would have got the insurance money and he would have got the business,”

Mr Harvell told the Winchester inquest.

“So we had to get these medicals.

I got mine, but his was going on and on and on. By Christmas last year, mine had been finalised for seven months but his still hadn’t been done.

“After his death I found a letter in his desk saying that he had been declined insurance. I think that triggered his depression.”

Thirteen firefighters battled to stop the blaze spreading to a nearby house and another car in Windmill Lane, Bursledon.

Mr Harvell, who lives in the same road, told the hearing about the moment he realised his friend was trapped inside the burning car.

“That car by then was like an inferno.  It wasn’t just a fire. You could not get near it.

“The BMW was a lost cause but something inside me told me he was inside, that’s why I phoned his phone,” he said.

The court heard that Mr Lowe had two children, aged 14 and 13, and that Miss Norton, his partner of more than 30 years, had been concerned about him for some time.

She said: “He was like a lost soul.

Sometimes when I looked at his eyes they would look dead and I would tell him not to look at me like that.”

But the court also heard that when he was not suffering a bout of depression, he was an outgoing person. “Graham liked to be the centre of attention and make everybody laugh. He got on with everybody – he was a character,”

Mr Harvell said.

Deputy Coroner for Central Hampshire,Simon Burge said that although he believed Mr Lowe had set fire to himself in his car, he had to return an open verdict.

He said: “It’s the mental state of the individual that’s vital here and the choices that he made indicate to me that this is someone who was very seriously ill.