In March 1994 Frank Butcher asked Phil Mitchell to torch his car lot in an insurance scam. On the night of the fire, Frank stood outside his car lot and the vagrant asked him for money. Frank said he did not have any and walked off. The vagrant then walked into the car lot premises. Either one of the cars was unlocked or he broke in. Either way he sat in one of the cars and fell asleep. At around 11pm Phil did the deed. He doused the cars in petrol and then set them alight. The vagrant was burned badly. The fire brigade and ambulance services were alerted. The vagrant was rushed to hospital and later died.
Aftermath of death in fire
Frank and Phil were overcome with guilt. Frank scolded Phil for not checking properly before starting the fire. The police suspected arson and a possible insurance scam. Frank was questioned a few times by police. He became depressed and at his wits end with worry. The pressure became too much and Frank fled Walford in April 1994, not telling anyone. The case was later dropped due to lack of evidence. Frank suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up in a psychatric hospital. Phil resumed his normal life but did have a few sleepless nights and began drinking. His brother Grant Mitchell said he could get 10 or 15 years in prison if any of this got out. He later recovered. However in December 1995, Frank returned to Walford and wanted to pick up where he left off. He soon admitted defeat and left Walford but later returned permanently and Phil and Frank put the past behind them, especially when he became his stepdad.
In November 2011, almost 18 years after the vagrant died, Phil began to recieve photos of a young lad. A stalker was leaving them around and every subsequent photo was of the same young person but a little older. On the 14th November 2011 Phil found another photo left in the petrol cap of one of the cars at Mitchell's Autos. He then looked at the date on the back which said 08/03/94. Phil's memory came flooding back to him as he then had a good idea who the person in the photo is, the vagrant who Phil had accidentally killed in the car lot all those years ago. However the stalker turned out to be his son Ben Mitchell, who had found out somehow about the 1994 fire. Nothing further was said about the fire.
The identity of the vagrant has never been established onscreen. In 2011, a newspaper report was seen with a photo of the man but the writing underneath was too small on screen to see what his name was.
In April 2017, Michelle Fowler remarked on how the vagrant died in the fire all those years ago.