Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Fire killed boys in makeshift den

Two young brothers died when a fierce fire tore through a makeshift "den" they had created beneath the stairs at their home, an inquest has heard.

Seven-year-old Lewis Jenkins and his five-year-old brother Taylor died from smoke inhalation when the blaze broke out in their end-of-terrace house on October 4, 2008.

Investigators found a disposable lighter and several tealight candles in the area where they had been playing, beneath the stairs in Milfoil Drive, Eastbourne, East Sussex.

The brothers, described as "a handful", shared the house with their mother, Denise Goldsmith, who had split from their father, Stewart Jenkins, who is in prison. The inquest heard that Ms Goldsmith was approaching one-and-a-half times the legal drink-drive limit when she gave a blood sample at 4.30pm on the day of the fire.

In a statement to the inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates' Court, Toxicologist Ian Humphreys said back calculations suggested she would have been around four-and-a-half times over the limit at 2.30 that morning.

The court heard that Lewis and Taylor had little routine at home, and frequently went to bed when and where they wanted, even when they had school the next day. Ms Quicke said: "Denise couldn't cope with them. She didn't like to ask her family. She liked to think that she could do it all on her own."

Ms Goldsmith was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and neglect of the children following the fire but a decision was taken not to prosecute in February 2009.

The inquest was told that at the height of the fire, two neighbours had tried to enter the property through a window but had to retreat as the flames took hold.

The fire would have taken just a "few minutes" to build into a sizeable blaze, according to Emma Wilson, an investigator with the Forensic Science Service.

Ms Wilson concluded that the fire started as a result of a "human act". She said: "My conclusion is that the fire occurred in the area under the stairs. The majority of the damage was where the camp had been made towards the entrance. The fire was caused by flame coming into contact with combustible material."


From Belfast Telegraph