An arsonist who targeted a West Malling home knowing a pensioner was inside has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Simon Childs appeared before Maidstone Crown Court on Friday 24 May 2019, where he was told he would need to serve a minimum of 32 years before he could be considered for parole.
Childs, aged 52, used petrol to start a fire which engulfed a property in Spitfire Road, resulting in the death of his mother-in-law, 65-year-old Jacqueline Allen. He broke into the property at around 9pm on 17 November 2018. He took fuel containers from a shed which were laden with petrol and started a fire in a lean-to, next to the kitchen.
Emergency services attended and located Mrs Allen inside and she was later pronounced deceased in hospital. Another person also in the property, was found in the garden having jumped to safety from a first floor bedroom and suffered injuries including a fractured toe.
Officers located Childs shortly after, at a nearby address in Hurricane Close and he was arrested. At the time of his arrest, he had been subject to a number of conditions prohibiting him from attending the address in Spitfire Road, which had been imposed by a court following a previous conviction for assault against a former partner.
An investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate uncovered evidence that on the day of the fire Childs had threatened to set alight a caravan belonging to a man he suspected of having a relationship with the former partner. He was also heard to make threats that he was going to ‘burn the house down’ and was responsible for dozens of abusive messages and phone calls, demanding to know of her whereabouts.
During police interviews, Childs denied any blame. An investigation proved he was missing from the address in Hurricane Close between 8.54pm and 9.04pm, at a time the fire was started, but Childs claimed this was because he had gone to sit in his van and smoke cannabis. Appearing before Maidstone Crown Court he pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder. The case went to trial and on Wednesday 22 May 2019 Childs was convicted on both counts.
Detective Chief Inspector Patrick Milford of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘Simon Child’s actions were callous and calculated. He broke into the property knowing that Jacqueline Allen and another person were inside, before starting a devastating fire which spread rapidly with tragic consequences. Local residents bravely tried to rescue the occupants from the house, but the fire was just too intense. The sentence imposed is unlikely to lessen the grief caused by this senseless loss of life, but it will at least hopefully provide reassurances that Childs is now unable to cause further harm, and will be spending many years in prison.’