30 years for fire family murderer

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Melanie Smith started the devastating blaze because she was angry the pushchair had been left in a shared hallway Melanie Smith started the devastating blaze because she was angry the pushchair had been left in a shared hallway

A woman who murdered five members of a family, including three young children, when she set fire to her neighbour's pushchair has been jailed for at least 30 years.

Alcoholic Melanie Smith, 43, started the devastating blaze because she was angry the pushchair had been left in a shared hallway close to the front door of her flat.

Lee-Anna Shiers, 20, her four-year-old nephew Bailey and two-year-old niece Skye,were trapped in their upstairs flat and died in the arson attack in North Wales on October 19 last year.

Firefighters managed to rescue Ms Shiers's 15-month-old son Charlie and his father Liam Timbrell, 23, but they died in hospital.

Smith, who lived in the flat below the victims in Maes y Groes, Prestatyn, was found guilty of five counts of murder by a jury at Mold Crown Court last Tuesday.

Smith wept as the sentence was passed by trial judge Mr Justice Griffith-Williams.

The judge told Smith that at first it seemed unlikely that a mother-of-five with no previous convictions could set fire to a house with people in it. But after hearing the evidence he said he was satisfied that Smith set fire to the pushchair.

He said Smith was motivated by jealousy due to her faltering relationship with Stephen Clarkson, whom she accused of cheating on her with a woman called Samantha Schofield - a woman she hated.

"That hatred, which was all the more intense because of your drink problem, took over your life," the judge said.

Smith was convicted last Tuesday of five counts of murder and one count of making threats of arson after the jury of seven women and five men reached 10-2 majority verdicts following 15 hours of deliberations.

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