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Bid to find Caversham arsonist 20 years after girl died

media captionIt has been 20 years since Emily Salvini, seven, died

Twenty years ago, mother-of-two Katie Salvini went to bed after staying up late to watch TV news analysis of Tony Blair's landslide general election victory.

Her children, three-year-old Zach and seven-year-old Emily, were already asleep.

That night someone cut phone lines, then poured petrol through the letterbox and started a fire which roared through the house.

It killed her daughter and left Mrs Salvini and her son with burns and traumatised.

The severed phone lines delayed rescue by the emergency services.

Now 23, her son Zach Salvini says his experience of the fire is his earliest memory.

He said: "I remember my mum frantically swung the door open, it was like a wall of something hit her, a wall of white.

"I remember my mum screaming 'Emily' over and over again."

Mrs Salvini said the fire "blew, pounced into the room".

She could not even see flames, but instead "hot sheets of pale yellow, sheets of white".

She managed to climb out of the window of her home and protect her son, as roof tiles dropped off the building.

Emily, who was sleeping in another room in the house, was already dead from breathing in smoke and from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Police have never found the person responsible for the blaze.

image captionZach Salvini said the fire was his "first memory"
image copyrightAFP
image captionKatie Salvini is hoping to find the arsonist who killed her daughter

In the weeks leading up to the attack in Reading, Mrs Salvini's father, who babysat his grandchildren on Thursdays, had his tyres slashed.

Ten days before the arson attack, Mrs Salvini's phone lines were cut, and had to be replaced.

But she had lived happily as a single mother in the Caversham area of the town with Zach and Emily.

Now she is hoping a fresh appeal to the public will solve the 20-year-old mystery of who started the fire.

"I think it's really important for my whole family, it's important for Zach, it's important for them to know, but most of all it's important for Emily," she said.

image copyrightThames Valley Police
image captionKatie Salvini and her daughter Emily

"She was my beautiful little princess."

Mrs Salvini spoke of her love for her first born child. She had her when she was "young, newly-wed and straight out of uni".

"I was living in Italy with Marco, Emily and Zach's dad," she said.

"I couldn't speak a word of Italian, and there I was aged 23 up a mountain on Lake Garda, with this wonderful baby girl and I fell in love with her straight away."

Appealing once again for information, she said: "I hope this will spark someone's memory.

"It could be the thing that could result in us finding out who did this, who did this horrific thing?"

Related Topics

  • Thames Valley Police
  • Caversham
  • Reading

More on this story

  • Emily Salvini arsonist death: Family appeal 20 years on