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."

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London