North East Wales

Prestatyn fire death trial: Melanie Smith 'made threat'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe prosecution at Mold Crown Court claims Melanie Smith started the blaze in a row over a pushchair.

A woman accused of starting a fire which killed five members of a family had previously threatened to burn down the home of a love rival, a jury heard.

Melanie Smith, 42, who lived in the flat below the family in Prestatyn, Denbighshire, denies five murders.

Witness Samantha Schofield said she had been warned that Ms Smith had threatened to burn her house down.

The prosecution at Mold Crown Court claims she started the blaze in a row over a pushchair. The trial continues.

Lee-Anna Shiers, 20, her four-year-old nephew Bailey and two-year-old niece Skye died in the blaze in Maes y Groes, Prestatyn on 19 October.

Firefighters managed to rescue Ms Shiers' 15-month-old son Charlie and his father, Liam Timbrell, 23, from their first-floor flat but they both later died in hospital.

Image caption Lee-Anna Shiers was killed in the fire while Liam Timbrell and son Charlie were rescued but later died in hospital

The defendant wrongly believed that Miss Schofield, the mother of two young boys, was having an affair with her partner Steve Clarkson, Miss Schofield told the court.

She added: "The night of the fire, it shouldn't have been that house, it should have been my home.

"People were telling me, my sister told me - Mel said she was planning to burn my house down.

"But I didn't think she was capable of doing it."

The prosecution has said Ms Smith deliberately set fire to a pushchair because she was angry that Ms Shiers had left it in a shared hallway.

The jury was previously told that the family made desperate appeals for help while trapped in their first floor flat.

Mr Timbrell made a 999 call in which he shouted "help, help, someone has put it [the fire] on purpose, we're inside the flat".

The court was told that one neighbour opened the flat door and could see flames and the porch was thick with smoke.

During Thursday's evidence, Miss Schofield said that about six weeks before the fatal fire she had allowed Mr Clarkson to stay at her home when he had temporarily split up with the defendant.

She had got up one morning and found that his car had been vandalised and matches were left around the vehicle.

Questioned by Ian Murphy QC, for the prosecution, she said: "There were about 20 or 30 matches on the driveway and some more matches still in the box.

Not reported

"Some were still live and others had been burned.

"I left the matches on the ground but picked up the box and put it in the bin."

Miss Schofield said she had not seen who did it but later that day her sister, Amy, said Ms Smith had told her "she planned to burn my house down".

Asked by Stephen Riordan QC, defending Ms Smith, why she had not reported the matter to police, she said she did not think she was capable of it.

Image caption The dead couple's nephew Bailey and niece Skye also died in the 19 October fire

Mr Riordan suggested Miss Schofield "hated" Ms Smith for accusing her of having a relationship with Mr Clarkson.

"As soon as the fire happened, and you knew the defendant had been arrested, you went to the police to make it worse for her," he said.

Miss Schofield said: "No, I thought, 'Oh my God', I went to the police because I wanted to help."

They jury had earlier visited Maes y Groes to see the remains of the property.

They also heard evidence from the landlady of the Royal Victoria pub in Prestatyn.

Norma Vaughan said that in 2008 Ms Smith, who had been banned from the pub, returned and made an arson threat when she was refused entry.

More on this story