Woman guilty over flat fire deaths

 

A woman has been convicted of two counts of manslaughter after
she started a fire at a block of flats which killed two women, police
said today.

Sandra Clarke, 50, set off the blaze on the day there was due to be a county court hearing over her rent arrears.

Flames spread through the tower block and claimed the lives of two women in a neighbouring flat.

Clarke, of Marine Tower, Deptford, south-east London, had denied the charges against her, claiming someone else got into her council-owned accommodation and started the fire while she was out.

But jurors did not believe her and she was today found guilty at Woolwich Crown Court.

The court heard how Clarke bought two cans of lighter fuel from a local shop on February 4 last year before starting two separate fires in her flat - number 61 - on the 16th floor, at the top of the tower block.

Prosecutor Timothy Cray said the flames spread across the whole floor.

Kunaliny Alagaratnam, 42, lived in flat 63 with her husband and two young children. Her family were out but Mrs Alagaratnam and her cousin Santhirapathy Tharmalingham, 59, were overcome by smoke and were later found dead.

Mr Cray said examination of the scene showed someone deliberately started fires in the living room and bedroom.

"Two fires of this kind don't start by accident," he told the court.

"Someone wanted to set flat 61 alight."

He told the court Clarke had told police someone else must have come into her flat after she left to buy the lighter fuel.

"At this time this defendant was living a chaotic life. She was a woman with serious problems in her life," the prosecutor added.

"She rarely slept at flat 61, she told the police she often slept rough on the streets. There was also a background of problems between her and Lewisham Council who owned the flat.

"She was in arrears with her rent and there was actually a county court date fixed to deal with the arrears on the flat for the very day the fire was started."

He also said Clarke had a "hostile attitude" to the housing association, accusing it of having spies in the building.

"This defendant had motivation to hate the way that she was living and in her mind to see this flat and the council as a source of her problems," he added.

The two victims, originally from Sri Lanka, called 999 as they were overcome by smoke at around 2.47pm. They were found at about 3.10pm and were pronounced dead at 4.15pm.

The cause of death was found to be inhalation of smoke.

Detective Chief Inspector Amanda Hargreaves, of Scotland Yard's Homicide and Serious Crime Command, said: "I am pleased that Clarke has been convicted today and I hope that she will spend the considerable time she will serve in prison reflecting on how her actions ruined the lives of two families."

Clarke will be sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on June 1.

PA

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor