Mother sets Belsize Park flat on fire with daughter inside

Fire engines were called to the scene

Fire engines were called to the scene - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A mother doused her flat in petrol and set fire to it with her seven-year-old daughter inside, a court heard.

The 45-year-old teacher, who had recently separated from her husband, emailed a suicide note before taking sedatives, pouring petrol on the carpet of a bedroom and lighting the blaze in the early hours of last August 25, a jury at Blackfriars Crown Court was told.

Mr Christopher Amis, prosecuting, said: “She set her flat ablaze, knowing that her daughter was in it and intending to endanger both her own and her daughter’s life.”

But as the fire raged in her Belsize Park home, the mother changed her mind “and then doused the flames with whatever she could find”, he said.

However by then her daughter had already suffered severe burns to her feet.

Fireman later discovered the little girl in a small bedroom “crying with pain and fright” the jury heard.

The youngster had to be treated at the Royal Free Hospital for “nasty, painful burns to her feet and for smoke inhalation,” said Mr Amis.

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Police later found an email on the mother’s laptop that she had written that afternoon in which she said that “she had no more strength to fight”.

She wrote that her child “will not suffer, she will just go to bed as she does every day” and “I am so sorry I had to do this to her... so I will take her with me”.

Mr Amis described how neighbours in a flat above called the fire brigade after smelling smoke and a strong “white-spirit” smell on being woken in the early hours .

By the time fire officers arrived the fire had been put out but “there was a strong smell of petrol in the air,” he said.

He said the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was reluctant at first to let them in.

He said: “When she did let them in, they quickly discovered a young girl, a seven-year-old, in a small bedroom. She was crying with pain and fright and she had badly burned feet.”

She was taken by ambulance to the Royal Free Hospital “where she was treated for nasty, painful burns to her feet and for smoke inhalation,” the court heard.

Officers found extensive fire damage in one of the bedrooms, Mr Amis said.

“The fire was found to have been started in three different areas of the carpet in that bedroom,” he said.

Investigators also found a five-litre can of petrol inside a wardrobe in another room and a jacket on a bed soaked in petrol.

Police later arrested the mother at University College Hospital where she was being treated for smoke inhalation.

She told police in a prepared statement that the fire was an accident. She did not realise she had spilled petrol over herself and had gone to her bedroom to smoke a cigarette. which then ignited.

The mother denies arson with intent to endanger lives on August 25 last year, and another charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life is endangered.

The case continues.