'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
News
news
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all