Death of young boys in Penistone house fire ‘could not have been predicted’

Darren Sykes with his son Paul  (L) and Jack (R)
Darren Sykes with his son Paul (L) and Jack (R)
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The deaths of two young brothers in a house fire started deliberately by their father could not have been predicted by anyone, a serious case review has concluded.

Jack Sykes, 12, and Paul Sykes, nine, died in the fire alongside father Darren, after he lured his sons to the attic at their house in Penistone, near Barnsley, started a fire downstairs and closed the loft hatch with all three inside.

The scene at the house in Penistone after the fatal blaze

The scene at the house in Penistone after the fatal blaze

The bodies of Mr Sykes and Paul were found in the loft and Jack was rescued still conscious by firefighters from the bottom of the loft ladder but died five days later in hospital.

Jack managed to tell a police officer and hospital consultant before he died from 50 per cent burns: “It was my dad that started the fire” and “My dad did it on purpose”.

The inquest heard Mr Sykes, worried over access rights to his children, ‘coldly planned’ the fire at his home ‘with the specific purpose of ending two young lives’.

A serious case review into last October’s tragedy carried out by Barnsley council and published today ruled that none of the agencies involved with the family had fundamentally failed in their duty to the family.

But the report, which referred to Mr Sykes as FP, also found “areas of practice which could have been improved and where lessons can be learned”.

It said: “The deliberate, devastating actions of FP on 22 October 2014 could not have been predicted by anyone.

“Research suggests that such incidents are rare, that the vast majority of estranged father’s would not consider such actions and that there is no known way of identifying those who will do so.

“Historically there was no information regarding the family to cause concerns. Neither FP’s known offending history nor his mental health history was sufficient to make agencies believe that he posed a significant threat to himself or others.

“The coroner made it clear at the inquest into the children’s deaths that there was no knowledge by a public authority of any identifiable risk of such an event taking place and that none of the agencies involved with the family had fundamentally failed in their duty to the family.”

Coroner Chris Dorries concluded in March that the two boys had been unlawfully killed and Mr Sykes’s death was suicide.

The authors of the review wrote that their study “found examples of agencies failing to communicate with each other as comprehensively as they should have done”. One of the area of improvement was communication between Children’s Social Care and GPs.

The report added: “Whilst this review has been in process, agencies involved in the review have learnt lessons and taken several actions in order to improve services. These actions are all relevant to this case although they have not all been undertaken as a direct result of the case.”