A “DRUNK and jealous” woman who repeatedly threatened a neighbour killed a family of five in a devastating fire following a disagreement about a pram in a communal area, a court was told.
It was claimed Melanie Smith drank heavily on the day leading to the fire and was heard shouting through the letterbox “I’m going to burn your house down”.
Smith and neighbour Lee-Anna Shiers had argued for two months before the blaze, the court was told, but the row is said to have intensified over a pram left in a walkway outside the family flat.
Ms Shiers, 20, her four-year-old nephew Bailey and two-year-old niece Skye died in the blaze on October 19 last year. Fire crews rescued Ms Shiers’ 15-month-old son Charlie and his father, Liam Timbrell, 23, from the flat but both died in hospital.
Smith, 42, who lived in the flat below the victims in Prestatyn, North Wales, is accused of murdering them by setting the pram alight. She denies the five murder charges and a count of making a threat to destroy or damage property.
Mold Crown Court was played a harrowing 999 call in which Mr Timbrell shouted: “Oh my God, oh my God, we’re going to die.”
The jury was told Mr Timbrell later told rescuing paramedics that “it was arson” and “it was Mel from downstairs”.
Prosecuting, Ian Murphy QC said Smith made threats on a number of occasions to or about Ms Shiers that she would “set your house on fire with your kids in it”.
Mr Murphy said Mr Timbrell was the only person from inside the flat who was able to give any account of what happened.
He was attended to by paramedics Sarah Martella and John Owens, Mr Murphy said, and while badly burned he became alert and awake, and said: “Babies, are the babies okay?”
“I heard a woman shouting in the street,” he then said.
Asked by the paramedics what he meant, he replied: “‘I’m going to set fire to the house’ – yes, yes I heard this woman shouting she was going to set fire to the house.”
Mr Murphy told the jury: “Liam was saying ‘Mal, Mal’. And when Sarah said ‘who?’ he replied ‘Mel’ followed by ‘It was Mel’. ‘She said I’m going to burn the house down, she said I’m going to burn the house down’.”
Mr Owens later told police: “I remember him saying ‘It was arson. She did it. Mel did it’.”
Mr Timbrell said “Mel did it” two or three times then asked for reassurances about the children, the court was told.
Paramedics asked community support officer Barry Williams to speak to Mr Timbrell, the court heard. Mr Timbrell, who died in hospital two weeks after the fire, told him: “She was shouting through the letterbox ‘I’m going to burn your house down’.”
He said again to the officer it was “Mel from the downstairs flat”.
When questioned by police about the fire Smith said she was not sure what happened.
“One minute I was sitting in the lounge and the next I saw smoke coming from underneath the flat door, so I went to the bedroom window. I hurt my arm when climbing,” she said.
Mr Murphy said the prosecution does not accept that Smith escaped through a window, calling this a “significant lie in an attempt to portray herself as a victim rather than perpetrator of the fire”.
In police interviews, she denied having made threats to burn down the house.
Mr Murphy said Smith was “particularly angry” with Ms Shiers’s habit of leaving the pushchair in the hall and with her being “noisy” in the upstairs flat and being untidy.
Mr Murphy told the jury several previous incidents in which Smith allegedly made threats to burn property may show she had a “propensity” to do so.
The prosecutor told the court Smith’s friend, Gaynor Fogg, reported she often said Ms Shiers’s pram “drove her mad, being left in the porch”.
And on September 1, he said Smith told Ms Shiers’s friend Stacey Brady she was going to “make Lee-Anna’s life hell”.
Mr Murphy told the court Smith shouted up at Ms Shiers: “I am going to set your house on fire with you and your kids in it.”
The trial continues.