Glasgow & West Scotland

Sharkey fire deaths: Accused 'ordered house blaze'

Thomas Sharkey Snr, Bridget and Thomas Jnr
Image caption Thomas Sharkey Snr, Bridget and Thomas Jnr died following the fire

The Sharkey fire deaths murder trial has been told that both of the accused asked a man to set fire to a house in Helensburgh to settle a drug debt.

Lee Haddow, 27, told the High Court in Glasgow that Scott Snowden told him of the "job" to pay off £440 he owed him.

The former soldier said he later declined when Robert Jennings tried to give him petrol and instructions.

Mr Snowden and Mr Jennings deny murdering three members of the Sharkey family by torching their home.

Thomas Sharkey Jnr, 21, and his sister, Bridget, eight, died in the blaze at their home in Scott Court 24 July 2011. Their father, Thomas Snr, died in hospital days later.

Debt settlement claim

Both accused also face a charge of attempting to murder Mr Sharkey's wife, Angela, 48, who survived the fire on 24 July 2011.

Mr Haddow told prosecutor Alex Prentice QC: "To pay off a drug debt I was asked to set fire to a house in William Street."

Mr Prentice asked: "Did you do it," and he replied: "No."

Image caption Angela Sharkey was the only family member to survive the fire

Mr Haddow, from Helensburgh, said he was first approached by his cocaine dealer Lee McCarthy who told him that Scott Snowden had a job for him.

The witness told the court that he bought cannabis from Mr Snowden and sold it to his friends and had run up a £440 debt.

Mr Haddow added: "The following day I was approached by Scott who was driving in his blue Audi convertible in Old Luss Road, Helensburgh. I was walking along. He pulled in and I approached the car.

"I was told there was a job for me to pay off my debt and I was to go to Rab Jennings house at 9pm that night."

He told the jury that he went to Mr Jennings house in Williamson Drive, Helensburgh, and went into the kitchen.

Mr Haddow said there was no small talk and Mr Jennings immediately asked him to set a fire at William Street.

He said that Mr Jennings went into a cupboard under the sink and added: "He came out with a two litre bottle of petrol and a pair of blue latex gloves and told me how to do it."

'In tears'

Mr Haddow said that Mr Jennings then described how to use the liquid - pouring it through the letterbox and down the door and porch - before running off.

Mr Prentice asked Mr Haddow what his reaction to this was and he replied: "I was in tears, I was trembling, I was shocked. I said I can't do this. It's not me."

He was asked what Mr Jennings' reaction was and told the court: "He said: 'It's easy' then started to reiterate how to do it.

"He then started to say: 'Come on you need need to pay this debt off. Come on get a grip. It's easy.'"

Mr Haddow said that the accused eventually told him to go away as he was not willing to do it.

Mr Haddow claimed that he paid off the drug debt by carrying out work at Mr Snowden's home in Helensburgh.

He said that a month or two after the fire, in which three members of the Sharkey family died, he saw Mr Snowden.

His car was parked in Helensburgh and Mr Haddow went over to speak to him.

Mr Haddow said: "He rolled down the window and said: 'I need to speak to you about something, but I think my car is bugged, so I'll be in touch."

The court was told that Mr Snowden never got back in touch.

'Say nothing'

Mr Haddow told of meeting Mr Jennings around the same timescale in a medical centre in Helensburgh and claimed he told him: "Say nothing."

Under cross-examination by Donald Findlay QC, representing Mr Snowden, Mr Haddow was asked: "You have consistently lied to the police, is that not the case," and he replied: "Yes. I was in fear for my life. I'm worried about being attacked in the street."

The QC went on: "You just remember the bits that suit you," and the former solder said: "No, I'm telling the truth."

Mr Findlay said: "You are one of the 'get out of jail free' club set up by the Crown in this case," and Mr Haddow replied: "No not at all."

He admitted that he had been facing an attempted murder charge for the fire in William Street, on 6 January 2011, but insisted it had nothing to do with him.

Mr Haddow was then asked how he had a drug debt to Mr Snowden when Lee McCarthy was the man who supplied him with cocaine and he replied: "I bought cannabis from him."

Mr Findlay then said: "Scott Snowden never supplied you with cannabis because he never dealt in cannabis," and Mr Haddow said: "Yes he did."

Earlier in evidence Mrs Joyce McGinley, 54, told of the night the front door and porch at her home in William Street was set alight.

She said: "I saw flames and smoke was starting to come through the door. It was terrifying."

The court heard that the fire service attended quickly and the fire was put out with only damage to the front door and porch area.

Ms McGinley, who has five grandchildren, said that after this the letterboxes to her home were sealed up - and are still sealed up.

She added: "I didn't have my grandchildren staying for many many months because I was concerned for their safety."

Mr Snowden and Mr Jennings deny setting the fire at William Street, Helensburgh, on 6 January 2011 and all other charges against them.

The trial before Lord Matthews continues.

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