Men jailed for life over flat fire deaths

Two men were jailed for life today for murdering a teenage girl and her grandmother by setting fire to their flat as they slept.



David Philip, 19, and Jake Sheehan, 20, torched the property in Mile End, east London, after a fight with another youth who lived there over a £15 debt.

At the end of the row Philip had shouted "we are going to burn your house down" - and went on to carry out his threat.

But only Shannen Vickers, 17, and her grandmother Pauline Adams, 57, were in the fifth floor flat that night in February.

Sheehan, of Bethnal Green, east London, and Philip, of Bow, east London, were both found guilty on two counts of murder by an Old Bailey jury.

There was loud cheering and applause from the public gallery as they were jailed today by Judge Richard Hawkins, and cries of "scum" and "you are going to rot" as they were taken down.



The judge said the two men were taking revenge for losing "street credibility" during the earlier confrontation.

He told the defendants that their "horrifying" crime had "struck at the heart" of family member Nicola Vickers, who lost both her mother and only child.

The court heard that Nicola had been warned of the threat earlier but had said: "Don't worry, no one could be so cruel."

"She had faith in the power of human nature," said the judge. "She was right. Such an act was a cruel act indeed."

The court heard that Philip owed £15 to the youth who lived at the flat but did not want to pay it back, and a fight broke out, which ended in the threat.

Simon Denison QC, prosecuting, said: "It is almost beyond belief, but an hour or so later Philip and Sheehan carried out their threat."

The court heard that the two killers siphoned petrol from a motorbike before setting fire to the vehicle.

They then poured the petrol through the letterbox in the flat and on to the door and set it alight, knowing it would be occupied, said Mr Denison.

"A major fire rapidly took hold. Thick black smoke and burning fumes filled the flat," he said.

"Pauline Adams and Shannen Vickers would have been asleep when the fire was set. They both woke up.

"Pauline went to Shannen's bedroom. Shannen was heard screaming for just a few seconds but she was not heard again.

"They were both overcome by the smoke and the fumes and they died together, lying side by side - two completely innocent people killed over a £15 debt and not losing face."

The court heard that a neighbour saw two people running down the stairs moments before the blaze was discovered, and that both defendants made phone calls to friends shortly afterwards, owning up to what they had done.

They were arrested later on the day of the fire, which took place at about 5.30am on a Sunday.

At the trial, both defendants tried to blame each other for starting the fire but the jury rejected their stories.

After the fire the victims' bodies were found in their night-clothes, lying side by side in Shannen's room.

It appeared that the teenager's grandmother had got up to help her but the smoke and fumes spread so quickly they were both overcome before they could leave the room. Post-mortems showed they had died from breathing in fumes.

The family's dog, Hooch, and their cat, Nut-Nut, also died in the blaze.



Nicola Vickers said in a family impact statement: "I cannot express in writing the pain of losing my daughter, she was my life."

She said Shannen, who she described as her "baby", was a "typical teenager who loved life" and had just finished a business studies course at Epping College, passing all her exams.

"Shannen was determined, hard-working, independent and caring, and I know she would have grown into a well-rounded young woman," she said.

"I would have loved to have seen my daughter get married and have children of her own. My chance to become a grandmother has been taken away from me."

She said both deaths had "left a large hole" in the lives of family members.

Her mother, she added, was a "true cockney lady" and "the life and soul of all our family".

"She was the person that we all went to for advice and help."

Detective Inspector Larry Smith said Sheehan and Philip had been "intent on taking their revenge" and threatened to start the fire when the dispute "came to a head".

"With callous disregard for life, they carried out that threat, setting fire to the house and taking the lives of a beloved grandmother and her granddaughter."

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

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...