South East Wales

Carl Mills trial: Jury sent home in fire death case

Kim Buckley, Kayleigh Buckley and Kimberley Buckley
Image caption Kim Buckley, Kayleigh Buckley and Kimberley Buckley died in the fire

A jury has been sent home for the night in the case of a father accused of murdering three generations of the same family in a house fire.

Carl Mills, 28, denies killing girlfriend Kayleigh Buckley, 17, baby daughter Kimberley and grandmother Kim at their Cwmbran home last September.

Newport Crown Court heard the fire was started deliberately and Mr Mills had not tried to save the family.

The jury started considering its verdicts on Wednesday afternoon.

It has been told the fire was started on 18 September, just hours after baby Kimberley, who was born prematurely and was blind and deaf, had been brought home from hospital.

Neighbours living on the Coed Eva estate had tried to save the family from the blaze, which the trial heard had broken out in the porch and spread to the staircase trapping the three inside.

Mr Mills denies the murders, claiming he was drinking at a nearby spot in a field when the fire began and that he loved Kayleigh and was planning a future with her and Kimberley.

'Contradictory' evidence

The judge, Mr Justice Wyn Williams, told the jury they had to decide if Mr Mills started the fire.

If he intended to kill or cause serious harm to anyone in the house, he was guilty of three murders.

But the judge said if the defendant did not intend to kill with the fire, they could consider manslaughter as a verdict.

He reminded the jury there were conflicting versions of the defendant's movements the day before the fire, adding: "There is not any direct evidence from prosecution witnesses of what the defendant was doing in the afternoon and evening."

The defence, he said, suggested the text messages sent by Mr Mills to Kayleigh threatening to burn the house down were "empty threats" fuelled by drink.

The prosecution said Mr Mills carried out those threats because he was jealous and paranoid that his baby daughter was displacing him in Kayleigh's affections.

But the judge added that Mr Mills had given contradictory evidence about his drinking pattern that night.

"He said he hadn't started drinking until about 7.30pm, but the text messages began within 20 minutes of that."

The jury was also reminded of evidence given by police, fire officers and neighbours who witnessed the fire and saw or spoke to Mr Mills that night.

All of them noted his apparent lack of concern about the fire and the fact that his girlfriend and daughter were inside, the judge said.

Three police officers gave evidence that Mr Mills at one stage told them they were in a different house to the one on fire, which the defendant denies.

Some also thought Mr Mills came from a different direction to the one he claimed.

Once arrested by police on suspicion of causing arson with intent to endanger life, one officer had reported Mr Mills as saying: "What have I done?" which he believed related to the fire.

However the judge said Mr Mills claimed he meant, "what have I done wrong" to be arrested. He told the jury they would have to reflect on what he meant by the statement.

Motivation for 'lies'

Mr Justice Williams said the trial had heard from three forensic experts in relation to the fire who all agreed that the fire had started in the porch of the house and was not started by gas igniting or an electrical fault.

They said it was possible it had started in the recycling bin in the porch but scientifically it could not be proved beyond all doubt.

The judge said two of the experts had given their opinion that the fire could not have been caused by a discarded hand rolled-cigarette, of the type both Mr Mills and Kayleigh smoked.

The third expert was "more likely to agree" that a manufactured cigarette could have started the fire but less likely that a hand-rolled one did.

Mr Justice Williams said the jury would have to consider the likelihood of Kayleigh, who was not known to smoke manufactured cigarettes, coming onto the porch in the middle of the night and "recklessly, carelessly or inadvertently" discarding a cigarette into a recycling bin, or the possibility of an unknown passer-by doing the same.

He also referred to lies told by the defendant during interviews which he had later accepted he had told, saying the jury would have to reflect on what the motivation for those lies might have been and whether they were significant to the prosecution's case or not.

The jury will resume its deliberations on Thursday.

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