London

Brothers jailed for Camberwell toddler arson death

Two half-brothers convicted of killing a 19-month-old girl in an "evil" revenge arson attack have been jailed.

Siariah Letang was overcome by smoke in the blaze in Camberwell, south London, in September, the Old Bailey heard.

Richard Kwakye, 28, of Twickenham, south-west London, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years for murder and attempted murder.

Dimitri John-Lewis, 19, from Paddington, was jailed for 12 years for manslaughter and perverting justice.

Their mother Josephine Nicholas, 46, of Paddington, was jailed for four years for perverting justice by giving police false information.

Judge Giles Forrester said the offences were "despicable and evil".

'Terrified screams'

The baby girl died of carbon monoxide poisoning after Kwakye started the fire in the early hours of the morning, by pouring petrol, supplied by his half-brother John-Lewis, through a letterbox and lighting it.

The fire started while everyone in the house was asleep.

The girl's mother Ellisha Letang, 23, and grandmother Brenda Ricketts, 45, suffered severe burns in the fire.

Kwakye started the blaze in revenge for a firearms incident and a custody battle over a child, the court heard.

Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting, said it was a "wicked and callous act".

He said: "The flames and the hot gases quickly spread to the staircase, which prevented escape for those people upstairs.

"Neighbours were woken up by the terrified screams of those inside and the noise of the fire as it took hold."

Miss Ricketts screamed that children were going to die, Mr Rees said.

"Someone shouted at her to open the window and throw the children out, but in her panic she could not operate the catch," he added.

After a few minutes, overcome by smoke, she went quiet, the court heard.

'Cold-blooded attack'

Siariah died in hospital later that morning.

In a victim impact statement, Miss Letang described how she woke from a five-week coma to be told of the death of her daughter.

"There in my hospital room I was given the worst news of my life, that my daughter, my beautiful baby, had died," she said.

Image caption Siariah Letang

"My heart was broken. I was unable to touch, kiss and hug her and say goodbye."

Miss Letang suffered 32% burns to her face, abdomen and upper body and had to undergo reconstructive surgery, while the toddler's grandmother had to have surgery after suffering 17% burns.

An 11-year-old girl suffered burns while a four-year-old boy suffered smoke inhalation, the court heard. They cannot be named for legal reasons.

Outside court, Det Insp Rick Murphy said: "This was a cold-blooded and pre-mediated attack with the full knowledge that young children were asleep in the property with the rest of the family.

"I hope today's sentences go some way towards helping the family come to terms with their dreadful loss."

The defendants had all denied the charges.

Kwakye's partner Sacha Williamson, 29, of Twickenham, was cleared by the jury of perverting justice.

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