In 2014, Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman lived every parent’s Halloween nightmare. Her daughter, Matildia Thykier, ‘went up’ in flames and suffered burns after her Halloween costume caught fire.
The horrific incident is something that Claudia remembers vividly. As she told The Daily Mail in 2017: “I don’t like Halloween because 3 years ago it turned out our screams were real.
“She ‘went up’ is the only way I can describe it – it was a spark, and she screamed out for me.
“It was like those horrific birthday candles that you blow out and they come back. It was really fast. It was definitely life-changing for me.”
She’s also said that life for her little girl and her whole family hasn’t been the same since, and that she wishes she’d been the one wearing the costume 😢
We’re sharing the original story now, in 2018, as a reminder to be vigilant when it comes to fire safety – and to raise awareness of the fact that children’s Halloween costumes aren’t always fire-resistant.
The original story (2014)
Claudia Winkleman opened up about the moment her daughter went up in flames some time after it happened.
Matilda, then 8, was wearing a witch costume on Halloween last year when it brushed against a candle, setting her alight.
“We couldn’t put her out,” the mum-of-3 told BBC’s Watchdog. “Her tights had melted into her skin.”
Describing how quickly the “5 quid” supermarket-bought costume set ablaze, Claudia said: “It was not like fire I had seen before.
“Like if your shirt caught fire or anything I could put it out. It was the tights that… they came back to life.”
Matilda was trick-or-treating at a neighbour’s house when Claudia heard her scream. “I was talking to somebody, and then I just heard her scream,” Claudia said.
“She just screamed ‘Mummy’ and I turned around and that was that, she was just on fire.
“Everyone was screaming. She was screaming, all the kids there were screaming.
“It feels like she was on fire for hours but the surgeon said that definitely wasn’t the case and it was probably just seconds.”
Since the accident, Matilda has underwent several operations to treat her serious burns at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
Claudia spoke out about the family’s experience purely to help others prevent similar accidents. “I would like parents to – just on Halloween, to think about what they’re going to put their kids in because I didn’t, and it cost us.”
What happened next (2015)
In 2015, Trading Standards launched an investigation into the safety of children’s fancy dress costumes, with all retailers – whether shops or online sellers – facing spot checks to test the clothes’ flammability and safety levels.
(The lack of regulation comes from the fact that costumes were classed as toys rather than clothes. This means they are subject to less rigorous safety tests than regular clothing.)
Speaking to the BBC, the government’s then Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced the funding for the spot checks, said: “My immediate concern as a father and a minister is that children wearing these fancy dress costumes are safe.
“It is unacceptable for any costumes to be sold that do not comply with safety standards.” He added that parents need to be able to ‘feel confident that any fancy dress they buy meets required standard’.
Tesco, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s confirmed that their fancy dress outfits for children would now meet the equivalent of the higher fire safety standards required for youngsters’ nightwear.
How’s Matilda doing now?
We feel like we know Claudia from watching her on Strictly, and indeed because she was so open with the public about Matilda’s awful accident.
But, generally, Claudia’s pretty private about her life as a mum (as is her right) – and she tends not to share lots of family snaps on social media. So, we don’t know exactly how Matilda’s doing now.
We hope she’s living a happy, healthy life – undeterred by her injuries. In her 2014 interview with Watchdog, Claudia described Matilda’s injuries as “life-changing but not life defining.”
We really do hope Matilda’s made as full a recovery as possible, and that Claudia’s story helps others – not to panic, but be wary of naked flames near childrens’ Halloween costumes 💛
Images: Instagram/Claudia Winkleman