Arsonist who killed girl, 3, convicted of murder

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The Independent Online

An arsonist who killed a girl of three in a revenge attack on her family was convicted of murder yesterday.

Graham Heaps, 44, set fire to the home of his ex-lover's relatives because he was "bitter" about the breakdown of their relationship, a court heard.

Francesca Bimpson suffered 85 per cent burns after Heaps poured petrol though the letterbox of her home in Everton, Liverpool, and set it alight. She died in hospital a few days before Christmas last year from complications caused by burns.

The jury took two-and-a-half hours to reach a unanimous guilty verdict, which was greeted by cheers and shouts of "yes" from the public gallery at Liverpool Crown Court. As Heaps was led away, Francesca's mother Eleanor Skelhorne became distraught and shouted at him: "That's wiped the smile off your face, hasn't it?" Heaps, formerly of Everton but now of Crumlin, Gwent, will be sentenced today.

Francesca, her mother and father, Kieron Bimpson, both 37, and their three other children, Anne-Marie, 17 months, Christina, eight, and Kieron, 14, were asleep in bed when the attack took place on 1 December last year.

Mr Bimpson, a fitness instructor, ran out of the house so he could catch the children as they jumped. But Christina, who was trapped in the front bedroom she shared with Francesca, was not strong enough to lift her little sister to the window.

Emergency crews arrived at the house as Ms Skelhorne was screaming from the street: "Get my baby out. My baby is inside." Firefighters found Francesca lying on her bed, limp and breathing only faintly. She died three weeks later.

The jury was told that Heaps harboured ill feelings towards the family following the end of his relationship with Ms Skelhorne's sister, Linda.