Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Penistone fire death dad Darren Sykes lured sons with new train set

Darren Sykes with his two sons Paul and Jack
Image caption Darren Sykes poured petrol around his house while sons Paul and Jack played with a new train set upstairs

A newly-divorced father lured his two sons to his house with a new model train set before setting fire to the building, killing all three of them.

Darren Sykes, 44, from Penistone, South Yorkshire, died in the fire on October 22 along with Paul, nine. Jack, 12, died in hospital six days later.

Sheffield Coroner's Court heard that Mr Sykes had been divorced for two weeks.

Just before the fire started, he sent texts to six people saying he was "going to be at peace".

Det Sgt Stuart Hall, of South Yorkshire Police, said that on the day of the fire, Mr Sykes spent £600 on model railway equipment and sent texts to his sons telling them what he had bought.

"All I need now are two engine drivers," one of his messages read.

Image caption The fire broke out in Tennyson Close on 22 October

Mr Sykes was caught on CCTV buying petrol in portable containers from a filling station near his home in Tennyson Close before the fire started. Earlier, he had purchased other containers from Cortonwood Retail park in Brampton.

He returned home from the petrol station at 14:00 GMT and texted his sons, picking them up later from their grandmother's house in nearby Thurlstone, where they were living with his ex-wife, Clare.

As the boys played in the attic with the train set, Mr Sykes poured petrol around the house.

Entrances blocked

When they arrived, police found a chair had been placed under the handle of a door to prevent anyone from escaping.

Michael Mason, from South Yorkshire Fire Service, told the inquest into Mr Sykes' death that other entrances had been blocked to stop anyone getting out.

Before starting the fire, Mr Sykes was seen leaving home with a number of envelopes in his hand. Several people would later receive distressing letters containing "suicidal thoughts".

Mr Sykes also sent one to his bank, HSBC.

A CCTV camera on his house caught the fire starting just three seconds after he sent a series of texts telling people he was going to be "at peace".

Coroner Christopher Dorries said Mr Sykes died from inhaling the by-products of the flames. He recorded a verdict of suicide.

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