Sussex

Rebecca Reasbeck trial jury fails to reach verdict

Rebecca Reasbeck in March 2011
Image caption Rebecca Reasbeck denied manslaughter

A care home worker accused of killing an elderly resident by starting a fire in her room has walked free from court after a jury failed to reach a verdict.

Rebecca Reasbeck, 20, of St Leonards, had denied a charge of manslaughter in a retrial at Lewes Crown Court.

She was accused of starting a blaze in Irene Herring's room at Ancaster Court in Hastings, East Sussex.

Jurors were discharged and prosecutors decided not to seek a third trial. The judge entered a not guilty verdict.

Prosecutor Anthony Haycroft said there were "compelling reasons" not to pursue another trial, including that the memories of witnesses would fade further over time.

He said: "We have canvassed the opinions of everyone, including the police, the CPS and the family.

"We are of the unanimous view that it would not be in the public interest to pursue a third trial and, accordingly, I offer no further evidence."

'Act the heroine'

He added: "This jury has always applied themselves diligently and the Crown is of the view that another jury may find themselves in the same position, which isn't in the public interest to pursue."

In a statement after the hearing, Mrs Herring's widower David said he hoped whoever killed his 85-year-old wife would "sincerely regret their actions" in the years ahead.

Image caption Irene Herring suffered from dementia

Prosecutors claimed Ms Reasbeck started the fire to "act the heroine" and in a bid to seek attention, but Ms Reasbeck said the theory was "sick - plain and simple".

It was alleged Ms Reasbeck started a fire in two places in the room - on a chair and on a commode seat - on 1 February 2009.

The court heard that the fire developed so rapidly that no-one could reach bed-ridden Mrs Herring in time.

Mrs Herring, who suffered from dementia, was rescued by firefighters and taken to the Conquest Hospital but died of pneumonia brought on by smoke inhalation the following day.

Ms Reasbeck did not comment after the hearing.

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