Glasgow & West Scotland

Snowden and Jennings guilty of Sharkey fire murders

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Media captionTwo men are found guilty of murdering three members of a Helensburgh family by setting fire to their home

Two men have been convicted of murdering three members of the Sharkey family by setting fire to their home in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute.

Scott Snowden, 38, and 50-year-old Robert Jennings had denied torching the house in the town's Scott Court.

The fire on 24 July 2011 killed Thomas Sharkey Snr, 55, his son Thomas Jnr, 21, and daughter, Bridget, eight.

A jury of 10 women and five men found them guilty after an 11-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Snowden and Jennings were also convicted of attempting to murder Mr Sharkey's wife Angela, 48, who survived the fire.

Other charges

Snowden was also found guilty of five fire-raising charges, three assaults, one breach of the peace and one charge of supplying cocaine.

Jennings was also found guilty of two assaults and supplying cocaine.

Charges against Jennings for fires at a house in Rhu in September 2009, and the Garth Inn, Helensburgh, on June 2009 and at the Mariners pub in Helensburgh in April 2010 were found not proven.

Image caption Scott Snowden and Robert Jennings will be sentenced on Thursday

Both men are expected to be sentenced on Thursday, when they will receive mandatory life terms.

Thomas Sharkey Jnr died at the scene and his sister, Bridget, died in hospital later that morning. Both died from smoke inhalation.

Their father Thomas Snr died in hospital six days later having suffered 30% burns to his body and having inhaled hot gases.

His wife Angela, who was on a life support machine, survived and relatives had to tell her the news that her family was dead.

Drugs debt

During the trial, the jury heard how drug-dealer Snowden did not get on with Mr Sharkey Snr, who himself had served a prison term for drug dealing.

Snowden became enraged when Mr Sharkey intervened in a drugs debt that he was owed by the fire death victim's niece.

Mr Sharkey later told the family he had sorted Snowden out.

The jury heard that when told the 55-year-old had died in the fire in July 2011, Snowden replied: "He got what he deserved."

The jury was also shown CCTV images of a figure walking near the Sharkey family's home before and after the fire.

The figure was identified by his distinctive walk as that of Robert Jennings.

He started the fire on the orders of Snowden, who was out of the country on a family holiday in Mexico.

During the trial, both accused denied the three murders and tried to lay the blame on members of Thomas Sharkey's family, including his cousin Mark, who had stabbed Mr Sharkey Snr four months before the fatal fire.

The jury did not believe them, however, and convicted both men of murder and the attempted murder of Angela Sharkey.

When the verdicts were announced Snowden shook his head and Jennings shook his head and muttered.

Mrs Sharkey and Richard Sharkey - her husband's son from a previous relationship - and other family members and friends shouted "Yes" as the verdicts were read out.

Mrs Sharkey released a statement after the verdicts. She said: "We have lost three very special people in a horrific way. I still struggle to understand why they felt it necessary to do what they did to my innocent children but I will have to learn to live with that.

"I would ask that myself and my remaining family have our privacy respected as we try to rebuild our lives."

Image caption Bridget and Thomas Sharkey both died on the day of the fire

The verdicts came exactly two years after the fire.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice told the High Court in Glasgow: "Mere words would not be adequate to express the deep sense of loss suffered by her and her family.

"Today is the second anniversary of the fatal fire which led to the deaths of Thomas Sharkey senior, who was married to Angela for 25 years, Thomas junior was 21 and Bridget was eight."

The court heard that both accused have previous convictions.

Snowden has been convicted for misuse of drugs for which he recently served 19 months. He also has been convicted of charges of violence.

Jennings has previous convictions for theft by housebreaking in 1982, assault with intent to rob in 1985, road traffic offences and drug offences.

Judge Lord Matthews excused jurors from further service for 10 years and told them: "As Mr Prentice has said this is the second anniversary of the fatal fire. Like today it was a lovely day.

"It's tragic that circumstances like this bring us here to court. In this case we have been dealing with a situation where three people have died. One of them was a young man who had a great future ahead of him and a girl who in other circumstances would have been at a sleep over."

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