Blaze death jockey 'was calling for help' says survivor

By Alistair Keely,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:50

An apprentice jockey who survived a fire which killed two of his colleagues told a jury today that one of the victims was "calling for help" moments before he plunged to safety from a window.

Dean Pratt said he was standing beside Jan Wilson at a window of the blazing flat and recalled "she was calling for help".

Moments later he said he was left with "no choice" but to dive head-first from the window to the ground below.

The blaze claimed the lives of apprentice jockeys Jamie Kyne, 18, from Kiltrogue, Co Galway, Ireland, and Miss Wilson, 19, from Forfar, Scotland.

Mr Pratt told Leeds Crown Court he could not remember hitting the ground and suffered a laceration on his chin and a broken bone in his left hand.

It is alleged that father-of-one Peter Brown, 37, lit a fire in the communal entrance to the block of flats in Norton, near Malton, North Yorkshire.

Prosecutors said a drunken Brown set fire to the Buckrose Court complex as an act of "revenge" after he was refused entry to a party in September last year.

The fire "raged" through the building, forcing many of the occupants to jump for their lives.

Mr Pratt told the court he had been staying on the sofa in a flat occupied by Mr Kyne, Ian Brennan and his girlfriend, Jan Wilson.

He said he was woken by Mr Brennan, who alerted him to the fire and told him to get out.

"He was telling me there was a fire and we had to get out."

He told the jury the flat was full of "thick smoke" and he could just make out Mr Brennan and the living room door.

He was beaten back by the flames as he opened the front door and recalled Miss Wilson standing by a window.

"She was standing beside the window with the window open," he told the jury.

When asked what was she doing, he replied: "She was calling for help. I was standing beside her.

Asked by prosecuting counsel Richard Mansell QC what was going through his mind, he said: "I just had to get out. I was finding it hard to breathe. I had no choice. I let myself fall out of the window."

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

When the case was opened on Tuesday, the jury of six men and six women heard Mr Mansell outline the prosecution case that Brown lit a fire in the communal entrance to the flats last September.

Miss Wilson, who had been staying with her boyfriend, Mr Brennan, and Mr Kyne were asleep in a top-floor flat when the alarm was raised.

Mr Mansell told the jury that Brown - who later described himself to police as a "drunken Scotsman" - had been drinking in several pubs before the fire started.

In the meantime, a party had been going on mainly in Flat 4 at Buckrose Court but those attending also went in and out of Flat 5 - the one where the two jockeys died.

Mr Mansell said Brown returned to the complex, where he allegedly used an accelerant, possibly white spirit, to start a fire with rubbish.

Alarms sounded and residents woke to find the complex ablaze. Many were forced to jump from windows or climb down a drainpipe as the flames took hold.