'Jealous' woman found guilty of murdering five members of one family in fire

She deliberately set  pushchair alight because she was angry it had been left in shared hallway

A "drunk and jealous" woman has been found guilty of murdering five members of the same family, including three young children, in a devastating blaze following a row about a pram.

Melanie Smith, 43, deliberately set fire to a pushchair because she was angry that it had been left in a shared hallway, Mold Crown Court heard.

The court was told she carried out the "terrible and wicked deed" because she was "drunk and angry", disillusioned with her boyfriend, very unhappy in her flat and jealous of the woman who lived upstairs.

Lee-Anna Shiers, 20, her four-year-old nephew, Bailey, and two-year-old niece, Skye, died in the arson attack at their home in Prestatyn, North Wales, on October 19 last year.

Firefighters managed to rescue Ms Shiers's 15-month-old son Charlie and his father Liam Timbrell, 23, from the first-floor flat but they died in hospital.

Smith, who lived in the flat below the victims in Maes y Groes, Prestatyn, was found guilty of all five counts of murder by a jury of seven women and five men today.

Smith appeared to collapse into the security guard on her right as the first of the 10 to two majority verdicts was returned after almost 15 hours of deliberations by the jury.

As the remaining guilty verdicts were announced by the jury foreman, she bowed her head and looked to the floor.

In addition to five counts of murder, she was also convicted of one count of making threats of arson.

In the public gallery on a balcony above the courtroom there was a short outburst of "No", seemingly from a member of Smith's family.

Relatives of the victims were then heard to be crying as others shouted: "Yes."

Trial judge Mr Justice Griffith Williams told the court he wanted "time to reflect" before passing sentence.

He told Smith her life sentence was fixed by law, but she would be brought back to the court on May 8 when she will be told the minimum term.

The defendant clung on to the arm of a security guard as she was led down to the cells and appeared to have difficulty walking.

During the three-week trial, the jury heard that Smith, an alcoholic mother-of-five, has been increasingly angry with Ms Shiers, accusing the young mother of being a noisy and untidy neighbour.

Smith was also heard complaining to others about Ms Shiers leaving the pram in the hallway and leaving cigarette ends around the front door area.

Ian Murphy QC, for the prosecution, told the jury that on the night of the fire, Smith was drunk and started the blaze "in a rage" after hearing Ms Shiers and Mr Timbrell having sex upstairs.

The 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 that Mr Timbrell later told rescuing paramedics that "it was arson" and "it was Mel from downstairs" after he said he heard her shouting through the letterbox that she was going to burn the house down.

Mr Murphy said Smith had a "propensity" to threaten people by saying she would burn their houses down "with their children inside".

The court heard that Smith made a string of similar threats to Ms Shiers in the weeks before the fire.

She also threatened to "fire bomb" her landlord's home and burn down the house of Samantha Schofield, whom she accused of having an affair with her boyfriend Steven Clarkson.

Smith, who claimed in court that she once had counselling for being obsessively tidy, denied the allegations and said 21 of the prosecution witnesses, including a firefighter and a police officer, were lying and plotting against her.

She said only a "sick and evil person" would threaten to start fires in houses with children inside.

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions