Glasgow & West Scotland

Fire victim's clothes 'smelled of petrol'

fire engine at house
Image caption Catherine Kelly died in the fire at her Kilmarnock home

Clothing worn by a woman the night she died in a house fire tested positive for petrol, a murder trial has heard.

Forensic scientist Shirley Chin examined the body of 71-year-old Cathy Kelly at the scene of the fire.

She told the High Court in Glasgow a smell of accelerant was coming from her top.

William Kelly, 42, denies killing his mother at her home in Kilmarnock in February.

He is accused of assaulting her, pouring petrol over her and setting it alight at the property in Kilmaurs Road.

Ms Chin told prosecutor Ashley Edwards QC that she visited the house on February 12 and 13 along with police officers and firefighters.

She described seeing Mrs Kelly's body lying on a tarpaulin.

"She was on her back covered with a blanket and a tent had been erected," she said.

"She was wearing black trousers and black socks. Her top half was exposed. Her bra and most of her top was fire damaged. A smell of accelerant was coming from her top.

"There was burn damage to her arms and back. There was little damage to her front and her hair was singed."

The jury heard that the top was taken to a laboratory for analysis and tested positive for petrol.

The scientist said that Mr Kelly's jeans and trainers were analysed and tested positive for petrol. His white polo shirt tested negative.

The jury was told a control evidence bag with nothing in it also tested positive for petrol, but Miss Chin said she was satisfied that this result did not compromise her findings.

Two separate fires

The jurors have heard that Mrs Kelly, her son William Kelly and his then partner Eleanor Banks had been out at a 21st birthday party that night.

Mother-of-five Mrs Banks said earlier in evidence that when they returned home, Mr Kelly assaulted his mother and then as she lay face down on the floor poured petrol over her and set it ablaze.

The court heard Mr Kelly suffered burn injuries to his hands and face in the blaze.

Mrs Banks' clothes were also tested for the presence of petrol with a negative result.

Ms Chin said that in her opinion there were two distinct seats of fire in the house - although she said she could not say which was set first.

She added: "I am of the opinion that the fire was started deliberately."

Fire investigation officer Robert Christie told the court: "The fire was deliberate in origin and there were two separate and unconnected areas of fire."

The jury heard that one fire area was in the living room, where firefighters found Mrs Kelly, and the other in the hallway.

The trial before judge Lady Stacey continues.

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