Mother cleared over blaze deaths
Tuesday 22 February 2011
A mother cleared of killing her children in a house fire wept as she walked free from court today and said she just wanted to start piecing her life back together.
Fiona Adams, 24, was found not guilty by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court of murdering daughter Niamh, five, and two-year-old son Cayden in the blaze in Buxton, Derbyshire.
She escaped from the house in Edale Way with youngest child Kiernan by jumping from an upstairs window just before midnight on April 23 last year.
Speaking outside Nottingham Crown Court today, where a jury cleared her of murder, arson and grievous bodily harm, Miss Adams said she was happy with the verdict.
A statement, read on her behalf as she stood in front of press silently weeping and supported by family members, said: "Today's verdict has been long awaited by Fiona and her family and is of course welcomed.
"She would especially like to thank her family and her wellwishers who have provided her with so much support throughout.
"Fiona will be most grateful if the press and the public will now give her and her family time to pick up the threads of their lives and establish some kind of normality."
During the trial, prosecutor Timothy Spencer QC told the court Adams started the blaze because she wanted to create a "drama" to get the attention of her then partner, James Maynard.
The court heard that Mr Maynard, who is the father of all three children, had cheated on her several times, which led to her attempting suicide on a previous occasion.
Mr Spencer said Mr Maynard was repeatedly late home from his job as a waiter and bartender at the Buckingham Hotel and would often fail to reply to her text messages.
Speaking after the verdicts, Mr Maynard, who is no longer in a relationship with Miss Adams, said he never doubted her innocence.
He said: "When you've been in a relationship for a length of time with someone you know them inside and out and I just knew she wasn't responsible."
He said he "never for one moment" believed any of the allegations against her and said he was horrified when she was charged.
"I was disgusted by it," he said, "We'd just lost everything and to go through that was awful.
"As a mum she was absoutely brilliant, couldn't have asked for a better mum."
Mr Maynard als said there were also no lasting injuries to Kiernan and he was now in talks with social services to allow Miss Adams access to him.
As the jury delivered its verdict, Adams sobbed loudly and held her hands up to her face.
Mr Maynard, sitting in the public gallery, also wept as she was cleared of all charges.
Members of her family shouted "yes" as Adams, dressed in black trousers, a black top and black cardigan with her brunette hair tied back, was cleared.
During the trial the court heard Mr Maynard should have returned home from work that night between 9pm and 10pm and did not. Mr Spencer said it was not long after this that Adams began complaining of an intruder in the garden.
The court saw CCTV footage taken from a next-door neighbour's house around that time, in which banging and crashing could be heard before a woman's voice shouted "hello, hello".
Mr Spencer said: "The prosecution says this was the start of the drama that Miss Adams started that night.
"It was, in fact, a charade and the person doing the banging was her and it was designed to create the idea she was being targeted by a vandal or vandals so that she would gain attention."
Adams called police, telling them someone had "trashed" her garden.
Two police officers arrived at the house just before 11pm but did not find any signs of a disturbance.
The prosecution said Adams, who had tried to call Mr Maynard several times, then started a fire in a laundry basket in the hallway.
Shortly after 11.45pm, Adams called 999 from her mobile phone.
But the mother of three told the jury she would never have tried to hurt her children.
She said the last thing daughter Niamh said to her that night was that she was the "best mummy in the world".
She said she heard the smoke alarm go off after going to bed, and realised the house was ablaze.
She took the children into her bedroom because their windows were locked, she said, then dialled 999.
She said she opened the window to "chuck the children out of it", and remembered letting Kiernan go, then turning round and not being able to see her other children.
"When I turned back round, they weren't there any more," she said.
She denied leaving two of her children to die in the house and that the whole evening was a "stage drama".
Miss Adams' brother Jason said she would now finally be able to mourn the loss of her children.
Speaking outside court, he said she was not allowed to go to the children's funeral and added: "She hasn't had time to grieve. They took something away from her there.
"It's been devastating for everybody and we're glad it's over."
Paying tribute to Niamh and Cayden he said: "I love them very much and I always will. I go and visit them quite a lot and that'll never stop."
He also said he wanted to give his sister a "big hug and kiss" before the family returned home together.
Miss Adams' father Michael said he had "got his baby back" and vowed not to stop fighting until Niamh and Cayden's killer was caught.
When asked who he thought was responsible for the fire, he said: "We have got an idea. Can't give names, I'd love to give his name, but he's a known arsonist who went missing two days after the fire and the police still haven't found him yet. So he's not gone off the face of the earth, has he?
"I will find out who's murdered my two grandkids."
Jasmine Maynard, the children's aunt, said: "There's still somebody out there who's murdered my niece and nephew and we're not going to stop until we've found them and they're convicted.
"The children were amazing. They were our precious little angels."
Derbyshire Police said in a statement that, in light of the verdicts, the force would appoint an independent team to review the case.
The force said: "The role of the police was to investigate the deaths of Niamh and Cayden Maynard and to achieve justice for the children and their families.
"The evidence was heard by the jury, who felt it was not sufficient enough to find Fiona guilty. During our inquiry, we found no evidence to suggest that anyone else was responsible for the fire.
"Derbyshire Constabulary would like to offer its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Niamh and Cayden Maynard, particularly to James Maynard and all the grandparents."
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