Glasgow & West Scotland

Sharkey trial: Crown urged convictions over fire deaths

Thomas Sharkey Snr, Bridget and Thomas Jnr
Image caption Thomas Sharkey Snr, Bridget and Thomas Jnr died following the fire

The jury in the Sharkey fire deaths trial has been urged to convict two men of the family's murder.

In his closing speech at the High Court in Glasgow, prosecutor Alex Prentice QC said those behind the fire had shown "wicked recklessness".

Donald Findlay QC, representing Scott Snowden, said the Crown had cherry-picked evidence to suit its case.

Robert Jennings and Mr Snowden deny murdering Thomas Sharkey Snr, his son Thomas Jnr, and daughter Bridget.

Thomas Jnr, 21, and Bridget, eight, died in the blaze at their home in Scott Court in Helensburgh on 24 July 2011. Their father, aged 55, died in hospital days later.

Both Mr Jennings, 50, and Mr Snowden, 37, also deny a charge of attempting to murder Mr Sharkey's wife, Angela, 48, who survived the fire, and a number of other separate charges.

'Terrible effects'

Mr Prentice continued his closing speech to the jury of 10 women and five men for a second day.

He told the jurors: "You saw the terrible effects of this fire and you saw Mr Sharkey desperately trying to get out of the window.

Image caption Angela Sharkey was the only family member to survive the fire

"You know young Thomas died as a consequence of the fire, you know young Bridget died as a consequences of the fire, and Mr Sharkey died as a consequences of the fire."

The prosecutor added: "This was a fire set in the early hours of the morning with the introduction of petrol into the letterbox of the only door. There was no means of escape."

Mr Prentice said that the jury would be entitled to infer that the person who set the fire intended to murder.

He added: "This might have been intended as a frightener for who would want to kill young Thomas and young Bridget and harm Mrs Sharkey."

But the prosecutor added: "I say that this is a case of wicked recklessness. Where the person who did this did not care whether the people in the house lived or died."

The jury was told there was evidence that Mr Snowden did not get on with Mr Sharkey Snr and when he was told he had died in the fire replied: "He got what he deserved."

'Graphic evidence'

Mr Prentice said when it was pointed out to him what a horrific death he must have suffered, Mr Snowden just shrugged his shoulders.

Referring to Mr Jennings, Mr Prentice said a number of people had identified him as the person who is seen walking down the junction at John Street, Helensburgh, just before the fatal fire and then walking up the junction just after the blaze was set.

Mr Prentice told the jury that they had seen from a reconstruction of the fire how quickly the blaze must have spread and how quickly the temperature had soared to more than 900C.

The prosecutor added: "There would have been thick black smoke and we have heard graphic evidence from firefighters of feeling their way through the smoke."

In his closing speech, Donald Findlay QC, who is representing Mr Snowden, accused the Crown of cherry-picking the evidence and urged the jury to see through what he described as "a smokescreen" created by the prosecution.

He admitted that Mr Snowden was a drug dealer and added: "It's a case of give a dog a bad name and hang it."

Mr Findlay said he sat and listened to prosecutor Alex Prentice QC outline the Crown case against Mr Snowden.

The QC said: "When we came to the crucial charge of this case, the murder, I thought at some point the Crown are going to take the strands of evidence and say this is why we say Scott Snowden is guilty of the murder of Tommy Sharkey and two children.

Drug dealer

"I'm now speaking and the Crown don't get another chance to speak and I'm still waiting."

Mr Findlay told the jury that Mr Snowden is a drug dealer but said that was no reason at all to assume he committed murder.

He added, referring to Mr Prentice asking the jury to convict Snowden of the murder of Mr Sharkey and his two children: "What you are being asked to do should offend every principle of honesty, decency and integrity and the time should come when you say: 'No enough'."

Mr Findlay added: "The fact that three people died and two of them were children is not an issue that should affect your decision.

"This is not a place for revenge. This is a court of law."

He told the jurors: "The decision you take is not going to affect you, it is going to affect Scott Snowden."

Mr Findlay said that setting the fire which killed three members of the Sharkey family was a "horrible, wicked, evil and cowardly thing to do and cowardly in the extreme", but he said that Mr Snowden denied having anything to do with it.

The QC said there was a whole list of people who had grudges against Mr Sharkey, many of them family members.

Mr Findlay went on: "Somebody clearly wanted to put the frighteners on Tommy Sharkey and that person failed to comprehend that like time and tide you cannot control fire."

The QC will continue his closing speech on Thursday.

The trial before Lord Matthews continues.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites