Prestatyn fire: Melanie Smith accused of murdering five family members
- 10 April 2013
- From the section North East Wales
A neighbour has been accused of killing five members of the same family by deliberately starting a fire in a row over a pushchair.
Melanie Smith, 43, denies murdering the two adults and three young children in the blaze at a flat in Prestatyn, Denbighshire, last October.
The defendant set the fire deliberately due to a dispute over where a pushchair was left, Mold Crown Court heard.
She was said to be jealous of Lee-Anna Shiers, who lived in the flat above.
Ms Shiers, 20, her nephew Bailey, four, and niece Skye, two, died at the scene. Her 15-month-old son Charlie and partner Liam Timbrell, 23, were rescued but died later in hospital.
The court heard how Ms Shiers' pushchair, left in a shared hallway downstairs, had annoyed Ms Smith.
On the night of 19 October last year, the pushchair was set on fire deliberately with a naked flame, the court heard.
The jury was told that the family made desperate appeals for help while trapped in their first floor flat.
Mr Timbrell made a 999 call in which he shouted "help, help, someone has put it [the fire] on purpose, we're inside the flat".
Neighbour Joe Shelley made a 999 call when he heard a voice, which he believed was that of a woman, saying "we can't get out".
Prosecuting barrister Ian Murphy QC said that Mr Shelley opened the flat door and could see flames 2-3ft (0.6-0.9m) high and the porch was thick with smoke.
He stepped back as he heard a 'whoosh' sound and the flames came towards him, pushing him back.
In Mr Shelley's 999 call, the sound of Mr Timbrell fruitlessly trying to smash the window from the inside could be heard in the background.
He could be heard to shout: "Oh my God, oh my God, we're going to die".
Ms Shiers also called her father on her mobile phone and said: "Dad, there's a fire downstairs. I can't get out."
The court was told he and his wife drove to the house to find the front porch door "blazing in flames".
The defendant's partner Steve Clarkson was seen climbing out through the rear ground floor window yelling: "There's kids upstairs, get the kids."
Ms Smith was seen on the far side of the road with a blanket around her.
Mr Clarkson asked her how many children were there and she replied: "How the f*** do I know? She has everyone up there."
The jury was told that firefighters used a ladder and a small axe to break a window in the upstairs flat to rescue Mr Timbrell.
They also found Ms Shiers and the children in a bedroom, handing care of them to the ambulance service.
After he was rescued, Mr Timbrell insisted that Ms Smith was responsible for the fire.
He asked one neighbour if the babies were ok and said that the electricity went off as he was at the window trying to call 999. The family were plunged into darkness.
He told the neighbour: "I heard a woman shouting in the street 'I am going to set fire to your house'. It was Mel, she said I am going to burn the house down."
He also told a paramedic "It was arson, she did it, Mel did it" two or three times.
A police community support officer spoke to him and Mr Timbrell said: "She was shouting through the letter box 'I am going to burn your house down'."
Asked if he recognised the voice, Mr Timbrell said: "Yes, it was Mel from the downstairs flat."
The prosecution said Ms Smith had been drinking heavily that day and had been angry and hostile towards Ms Shiers over the previous two months.
Mr Murphy alleged that on a number of occasions Ms Smith had made threats that she would "set your house on fire with you and [your] kids in it".
It was claimed she was particularly angry with Ms Shiers' habit of leaving the pushchair in the hall, being noisy in her flat and being untidy, such as leaving cigarette ends around the front door area.
He also said that Ms Smith appeared jealous of Ms Shiers and had accused her partner of having a sexual relationship with her.
Mr Murphy told the jury of five men and seven women that it was an allegation for which there seemed to be no basis at all.
Ms Smith denies five counts of murder and one charge of making a threat to destroy or damage property by threatening to burn down a house in September.
The trial continues on Thursday.