A debt-ridden gambler has been jailed for 20 years for killing a father and his eight-year-old daughter by setting their home alight in a “seriously reckless” attempt to cover up a burglary.
Daniel Jones, 29, poured petrol through the letterbox of a home and set it alight in an attempt to destroy CCTV footage of a burglary he had committed earlier at a nearby house.
The blaze in Stanley, West Yorkshire, killed Andrew Broadhead, 42, and his daughter Kiera after they were unable to escape. Broadhead’s wife, Sara, and his 13-year-old daughter, Mia, were rescued by neighbours.
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At Leeds crown court Mr Justice Morris sentenced Jones to 20 years in prison for double manslaughter and told the killer he was guilty of “seriously reckless conduct” that had caused “enormous and enduring pain and suffering” to the family.
Jones was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter and one of burglary. He consistently denied committing the offences and was said by the judge to have shown no remorse for his actions.
There were emotional scenes in court on Thursday when Mia Broadhead, who was 12 when her father and sister died in the fire on 19 October last year, gave tearful testimony about the disaster.
The teenager described her father as “the world’s greatest superhero” and her sister Kiera as “the world’s brightest star”.
She wiped away tears as she told the packed courtroom: “My daddy was the world’s greatest superhero and he was my hero. I am thankful for his happiness, kindness and his love for everyone – the way he was positive and how he always lifted everybody’s spirits.”
Mia said of Kiera: “My sissy was the world’s brightest star and nobody will dull her sparkle. I am thankful for the eight years we had with her – for her kindness, her funniness, her caring for one another and her humour. She didn’t deserve this, neither of them did.”
After she had finished reading out her statement, Mia returned to the public gallery where she was hugged by her mother, Sara, who also read out a personal impact statement to the judge.
Jones, who sat in the dock wearing a light grey suit and was surrounded by prison officers, stared straight forward as the statements were read.
The judge had to give special permission for Mia to be in the courtroom, as the usual age limit is 14 in the crown court.
The trial heard how Jones had a gambling addiction and owed substantial amounts of money to different people, and was being pressed for money to support his own children.
He burgled his friend’s house, which was opposite the Broadhead’s home, and on the 15 October last year stole a safe containing £850 and an ounce of the Class B drug ketamine.
The following day Jones’s friend discovered he had been burgled and told Jones that the culprit might have been caught on the Broadheads’ CCTV camera, which was on the front of their house.
Jones decided to destroy that footage. He had been told that the Broadheads were away on holiday and would not be back for a few days.
Tragically, that turned out to be wrong. The family had returned from holiday on 18 October and were asleep when Jones, carrying a can of petrol, approached their front door at 4.17am.
The judge said there was a “burst of fire, which took hold immediately” as smoke and flames spread rapidly through the house.
The court heard how the parents scrambled desperately to save their children. Sara and Mia escaped through Mia’s bedroom window with the help of neighbours, jurors were told, but Andrew and Kiera were overcome with smoke and pronounced dead at the scene.
The court was told that Jones repeatedly denied setting fire to the house or committing the earlier burglary, and concocted a set of lies to try to throw detectives off the case.
After the sentencing, Jonathan Sharp, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was an appalling crime, and the consequences have caused Mr Broadhead’s surviving family unimaginable suffering.
“The police conducted a wide-ranging investigation. We were able to present CCTV to the court which showed Jones buying petrol far from his home address, then arriving at the Broadhead’s home and setting fire to it. Tracker evidence from his van was found to confirm his movements that night, and his lies to the police strengthened the case against him.
“Having heard all the evidence, the jury convicted Jones. I hope the convictions are of some comfort to the Broadhead family and our thoughts remain with them.”