DETECTIVES believe it could be days before they discover what killed a man found dead in his burnt-out houseboat.
Kevin Pryor’s remains were found on his narrowboat Lady of the Lake in Wolvercote after the blaze late on Friday night.
But last night police said forensic investigators would be on scene until later this week trying to determine how the fire started and what killed the 49-year-old.
Investigating officer Det Insp Mike Lynch has not ruled out foul play, as the boating community spoke of its shock at the tragedy.
Police divers were searching the water by Mr Pryor’s canal boat home near the Duke’s Cut waterway yesterday, while the cordon is likely to remain in place at the scene until investigations finish later this week.
Mr Lynch said: “Because of the severity of the fire it is very difficult to find out what went on and at what stage.
“The investigation is as wide as it needs to be from a tragic accident to a serious crime scene.”
Mr Lynch said he wanted to hear from anyone who had information about what Mr Pryor had been doing in the days before the blaze.
He said: “Because of the isolated location of the boat not a lot is known the circumstances of the fire.”
He added: “There is no evidence a third party was involved at this time.”
Formal identification is expected to take place later in the week, but police released Mr Pryor’s identity yesterday after talking to his family.
Paula Jackson, 52, who moored near Mr Pryor’s boat, said the tight-knit community was shocked and saddened at the news.
She said: “It is absolutely terrible. I am very sorry and my heart goes out to his family.
“I can only hope it was an accident. It can be so dangerous living on your own on the waterways. You often hear of simple accidents ending in tragedy because people don’t have anyone to look out of them. It’s terrible news.”
Frank Dobson, 38, owner of narrowboat Juniper, said Mr Pryor was a well-mannered, quiet man who was very pleasant to chat to.
He said: “I’m stunned. It’s not the kind of thing you expect to hear. It’s not uncommon, you do hear of boats going up, if someone knocks a candle over or something.
“There have been occasions where washing has gone up, you do have to be careful. To know there was someone on board, let alone someone we knew, is just awful.
“My thoughts are with his friends and family, it’s a terrible thing to happen down here, it’s usually a really quiet area.”
Mike Davies, who lives on a narrowboat off Hythe Bridge Street, said he did not know Mr Pryor but said those who lived on boats were vulnerable to fire.
He said: “Boats have wood, they usually have a stove, a naked flame, gas and diesel. It is a really deadly combination and people have to be careful.
“Unfortunately fires of this nature happen on a fairly regular basis, not through negligence necessarily, but you have to be extremely careful.”
Anyone with information about the fire or Mr Pryor can call Mr Lynch on the police enquiry number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.