Second teenager cleared over disabled boy's death in blaze

A second teenager has been cleared of involvement in a fatal house fire which claimed the life of a 12-year-old disabled boy.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, and 18-year-old Nasir Khan had both been accused of the manslaughter of Damian Clough who died after inhaling poisonous fumes during a blaze at his home in Kinara Close, Stockbridge, Keighley, 18 months ago.

On Wednesday Khan, of Buxton Street, Keighley, walked free from court after the trial judge directed the jury to find him not guilty of the charge following legal submissions at the end of the prosecution case.

Yesterday the jury took less than an hour to return a not guilty verdict against the 17-year-old.

Damian's mother Julie was sat in the public gallery as Mr Justice Treacy told the jury that unfortunately the system had not been able satisfactorily to identify the person responsible for starting the fire in the house which took the life of an innocent young boy.

The judge said: "Plainly, you may think on the evidence, someone started the fire in the house that night and our system has not been able satisfactorily to identify who that person was. That is the logic of your verdict."

The prosecution had alleged that the two teenagers acted together in deliberately starting a fire or fires at Damian's home while the youngster was asleep in his bedroom.

Damian had been left alone in the house by his mother so that she could go to work, but she told the court last week that she was mentally tired and had expected his sister to be back home soon.

Prosecutor Julian Goose QC had alleged that Khan and the 17-year-old started two fires in the house before 10pm and ran off.

A neighbour raised the alarm at 11.28pm and firefighters were confronted by intense heat and black smoke.

When fire officers entered the house after being alerted by neighbours, they found the body of the family dog in front of the closed door of Damian's room.

Damian was found dead in his bedroom as a result of inhaling smoke and toxic gases.

Experts said a naked flame was used to set fire to an armchair in the living room.

Another fire, in the kitchen, went out after causing minor damage.

The jury heard that Damian had a number of disabilities – he was severely autistic and had severe learning difficulties.

His "highly obsessive" behaviour included shredding mattresses and wallpaper. Damian could not be left to sleep with his bedroom door open and he had broken off the internal handle.

Mr Goose said Damian's condition meant he was unable to react to any danger.

After the trial senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Lisa Atkinson, said: "This has been a tragic case in which a young boy has lost his life and our thoughts very much remain with members of his family.

"The investigation into the fire was a thorough and detailed one by detectives from the Homicide and Major Enquiries Team into what has been a harrowing incident which has deeply upset residents in the local community."

In a statement released on Khan's behalf by his solicitor Abdul Iftikhar he offered his "sincerest condolences" to Damian's family for their loss.

"My client is relieved and delighted that this ordeal is finally over," said Mr Iftikhar.

"Furthermore, he is delighted that justice has prevailed in his case as he vehemently denied this very serious allegation from the outset."

Mr Iftikhar said the last 18 months had been "very difficult" for Mr Khan and his family and he "now looks forward to re-building his life and securing employment again."