Couple killed in Kirton house fire started by 'vengeful' ex

Billy Hicks and Jay Edmunds Image copyright Lincolnshire Police
Image caption Billy Hicks and Jay Edmunds were found dead following the fire in the early hours of New Year's Day

A young couple were unlawfully killed in an explosive fire which was ignited by a "vengeful" ex-lover, a coroner has ruled.

Jay Edmunds, Billy Hicks and Ashley Martin all died in the early hours of New Year's Day.

An inquest heard Ms Edmunds broke up with Mr Martin four days before the fatal fire in Kirton.

Coroner Paul Smith said Mr Martin "had a clear purpose of coming to Lincolnshire".

On 31 December Mr Martin, 32, hired a van in Luton and drove to Peterborough where he bought a metal jerry can, fire starters, windproof matches, binoculars, a torch and a lock knife.

Parked outside home

He then filled the can with 17 litres of unleaded petrol, the inquest at Boston Enterprise Centre heard.

Mr Martin drove to Boston and later parked the van outside Ms Edmunds' home on Pear Tree Road.

Shortly before 03:00 GMT on New Year's Day Mr Martin was seen by one of Ms Edmunds' flatmates with a knife, and a "smell of fuel" was also noticed.

The causes of death of all three victims was given as smoke inhalation, although the coroner noted that Mr Hicks, 24, had been stabbed in the heart.

'Started deliberately'

All three bodies were badly burnt, and the victims had to be identified by dental records, the inquest heard.

Matthew Perrin, of Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service, said it was "highly probably the fire was started deliberately".

"A 20-litre metal jerry can was found in the debris of the house. The cap was in an open position," he added.

Image caption Two flatmates said the explosion "shook the whole house"

Ms Edmunds, 27, had been in a relationship with Mr Martin since September 2018. She ended it after Christmas as she found him "overbearing and smothering", the inquest heard.

She then went back to live in Kirton and was seen in the rented house with Mr Hicks, 24, with whom she had had a previous relationship.

Ms Edmunds later told a flatmate, Natalie Hall, that Mr Martin had "quit his job, went off the rails and went a bit mental".

Image caption A police officer who attended the fire described "flames leaping over houses"

Returning his verdict, Mr Smith said he felt it was relevant to note evidence that had Mr Martin survived the fire he would have been charged with murder.

Mr Smith said he was satisfied Mr Martin "wanted to end his own life".

Following the inquest the family of Jay Edmunds said in a statement: "Jay was brutally murdered by a person that we trusted. We will never begin to understand why.

"Our hearts are broken and our life will never be the same.

A statement from Billy Hicks' family said: "He had his whole life in front of him which was cruelly taken away without a thought for his family or his friends."

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