Jockey death blaze evidence 'flimsy'

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The Independent Online

Lawyers for a man accused of killing two young jockeys in a flat fire told a jury today the strength of the evidence against him "is not something you would hang an old coat on, let alone convict a man for the offence of murder".

Peter Brown, 37, is accused of starting a fire in a block of flats in Norton, North Yorkshire, which killed Jamie Kyne, 18, from Kiltrogue, Co Galway, Ireland, and Jan Wilson, 19, from Forfar, Scotland.

Paul Watson QC, defending, began his closing speech to the jury by saying the prosecution case was "flimsy" and "ailing".

He said: "In truth we suggest the evidence in this case is not something you would hang a old coat on let alone convict a man for the offence of murder."

Mr Watson went on: "Apart from conjecture and theory, the prosecution has produced little or nothing in the way of good old fashioned evidence."

The jury at Leeds Crown Court has heard how the prosecution case is that Brown started the blaze when he lit rubbish in the communal entrance to the block of flats known as Buckrose Court in the early hours of September 5, last year. Brown was a former caretaker for the complex and lived in one of the blocks.

Prosecutors say drunken Brown, who is originally from the Aberdeen area of Scotland, torched the complex as an act of revenge after he was refused entry to a party in one of the flats.

The fire forced many of the occupants to jump for their lives or climb down drainpipes. Miss Wilson and Mr Kyne were trapped in a top floor flat.

Brown, of School Croft, Brotherton, North Yorkshire, denies two charges of murder, two charges of manslaughter and one of arson with intent to endanger life.

Mr Watson said the fact that his client exercised his right not to give evidence in his own trial did not affect the prosecution's obligation to prove its case.

He said prosecutors relied on their contention that Brown was acting out of "brooding vengefulness" when he torched the flats after developing a hatred for the occupants of Flat 4 - which was on the first floor, below the one in which the jockeys died.

But the barrister said this was a "gross, gross distortion of what we now have seen as the reality of the situation".

Mr Watson pointed to evidence that one of the residents of Flat 4 had accidentally sent Brown a text which was meant for someone else, asking to borrow money, just a couple of days before the fire.

He pointed out that the defendant had offered to help despite the message not being meant for him.

The barrister said: "Think about the absurdity of what the Crown are saying here."

Mr Watson told the jury of six men and six women: "Even the prosecution had to concede that, as a motives for murder go, it's pretty flimsy."

He said his client had "never done anything remotely like this in 36 years previously".