Husband jailed for 12 years for killing three children

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The Independent Online

A man who torched his wife's home after accusing her of wanting to "cop off" with a taxi driver was jailed for 12 years today for the manslaughter of their three children.

Kevin Hargreaves, 38, had drunk 13 pints of Stella Artois when he poured petrol over himself and lit it - setting the house ablaze and killing his eight-year-old son John, his stepson Jordan, 14, and stepdaughter Carly, 19.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court cleared him of murder on the basis that he only wanted to kill himself and not seriously harm or cause death to anyone else in the house.

The couple married in 2003 but never lived together because of their volatile, alcohol-driven relationship.

It was a relationship that exploded with tragic consequences last year.

The couple spent July 15 drinking and returned to Mrs Owen's home on Herne Street, Beswick, Greater Manchester.

They had rowed in a taxi because Hargreaves, whose IQ of 74 puts him in the bottom 4% of the population, thought Mrs Owen was blanking him and flirting with the cabbie.

She also bought the driver a kebab, which infuriated the killer.

Hargreaves, who has a history of mental problems and self-harming, attempted to pour petrol over his head but most of it splashed on to the couple's bed. He then lit it with a cigarette lighter.

"I had had enough of life," Hargreaves told the jury, who added that he still loved his wife "to bits".

Sentencing, Mr Justice Holroyde told Hargreaves: "It was selfishness and self-indulgence which caused you to set the fire and light it. I do not accept that it was an impulsive act."

On the two boys who died in the fire, he said: "The terror which those boys must have suffered when they realised they were trapped, prevented by physical impossibility or by fear from descending the blazing stairs or jumping out of the window, is too awful to imagine.

"Anyone who heard the evidence will find it hard to erase the mental images of Jordan at the window piteously calling for help to his mother."