A LONG-TERM patient was found on fire in a ward toilet in the middle

of the night, a fatal accident inquiry was told yesterday.

Hours later John Gallacher, 41, an epileptic who had spent 24 years in

Lennox Castle psychiatric hospital, died from his injuries.

His 47-year-old brother, William, claimed at the inquiry that

officials at the hospital near Glasgow told him they thought a cigarette

might have caused the tragedy.

Mr Gallacher, of Littleton Street, Summerston, Glasgow, said he did

not believe his brother could have a lit a cigarette or have made his

own way to the toilet.

He told Mrs Fiona Miller, leading the evidence at Glasgow Sheriff

Court, that his brother's hands shook badly and someone always had to

light his cigarettes. ''I have never known him to have matches or a

lighter,'' he said.

John Gallacher was found with his pyjamas and dressing gown on fire in

the toilet of Ward 25 early on May 23, 1991.

He was taken to Stobhill Hospital then to the Royal Infirmary in

Glasgow, where he died that afternoon.

Mr Gallacher told Mr Ian Carmichael, advocate for the family, that he

had gone to Lennox Castle with other relatives after he had heard about

the accident and they had met eight officials.

He said the staff did not give any direct answers except to say they

were ''looking into the incident''. But they mentioned a cigarette as a

possible cause.

He said they then went to the Royal Infirmary and told the doctor in

the intensive care unit where his brother died about the cigarette. Mr

Gallagher claimed the doctor had told him: ''There's no way a cigarette

could have caused that.''

Mr Gallacher said his brother's condition had deteriorated during his

long stay at the hospital and he could walk only with assistance. He

denied that his brother was simple, or that he had ever seen him being

aggressive. His brother had complained several times about being bullied

by other patients.

A consultant psychiatrist, Dr Pronub Kumar Thakur, who was in charge

of Mr Gallacher's treatment, said that the patient had been epileptic

since he was two years old. Dr Thakur said Mr Gallacher was moderately

mentally handicapped with an IQ of 36 and a mental age of six years

three months.

Questioned by Mrs Miller, the doctor said Mr Gallacher could be

unconscious for up to five or 10 minutes after a fit and would feel no

pain. In his opinion, he said, Mr Gallacher would have been able to

hobble from his bed to the toilet despite his leg being in plaster as a

result of an ankle injury.

Dr Thakur told Mrs Miller he had interviewed other patients in the

presence of a nurse after the death. These included two who had a

history of fire-raising.

The inquiry continues.