Flat fire murder trio jailed for life

The scene of the fire in Langley Mill.
The scene of the fire in Langley Mill.

A man and two of his sons have been jailed for life after an arson attack that killed three people, including a teenage mum and her baby, in a Derbyshire house.

In sentencing the trio for murder, the judge, Mrs Justice Carr, told Nottingham Crown Court that “three lives were lost in the most dreadful of circumstances”.

Anthony Eyre.

Anthony Eyre.

“Many more could have died,” she said. “It must have been truly terrifying.

“This tragedy has had the most profound consequences for the many who loved those who died.”

Dad Peter Eyre, 44, and his sons, 24-year-old Simon Eyre and 22-year-old Anthony Eyre, all of Sandiacre, had denied three counts of murder.

But after a four-week trial and almost three days of deliberation by the jury, they were found guilty.

Peter Eyre.

Peter Eyre.

Peter Eyre, who was identified by the judge as the instigator of the attack, was sentenced to a minimum of 32 years in jail.

Simon, who had denied he was even there, was sentenced to a minimum of 26 years.

While Anthony, who accepted that he helped to start the fire and admitted manslaughter, was sentenced to a minimum of 23 years.

All the prison terms will be reduced by the 231 days the trio have already spent in custody.

Simon Eyre.

Simon Eyre.

The court heard that the blaze broke out on North Street, Langley Mill in the early hours of Sunday, June 21 last year, which was Father’s Day. It was part of a revenge mission by the Eyres in a dispute over a stolen moped.

Inside the house at the time were 17-year-old mother Amy Smith, her boyfriend, Shaun Gaunt, 18, their six-month-old daughter, Ruby-Grace Gaunt, and two of their friends, 17-year-olds Edward Green and Josh Holt, who were staying over for the night.

Mr Gaunt and Mr Holt escaped with the help of neighbours. But Miss Smith, whose grandfather Trevor lives in Hucknall, her baby and Mr Green, who lived in Belper, all perished as they succumbed to smoke inhalation.

The judge told the Eyre trio: “You were all party to and participated in a plan to set fire to the flat using an accelerant, petrol. I am sure that the intention was to kill.”

To dad Peter Eyre, who sat in his car while his sons started the fire, she said: “You were the driver behind the events of that night. You were the one to get your sons to go out there.

“But you have repeatedly lied and tried to manipulate and bully your way out of your criminal responsibility, going so far as to see to lay the blame on your sons and your sons alone.

“It is difficult to understand how any parent could act in such a way. You used your sons to satisfy your own desire for revenge and sense of self-importance.”

To Simon and Anthony Eyre, the judge said: “I am satisfied that your were led by your father into the plan. However, you were prepared to execute it. You were not forced to act as you did.”

She also told Anthony Eyre, who was described as “someone particularly loyal” to his father: “Unlike the other two, you chose to tell the truth in relation to your criminal involvement, at least in part. I am also satisfied that you have been significantly affected by the consequences of your actions.”

The courtroom was packed with family and friends of the victims to hear the judge’s sentencing and closing remarks. Many were wearing specially made T-shirts or ties in memory of Miss Smith and baby Ruby-Grace that bore the message: ‘Together Forever’.

The judge paid tribute to them all, saying they had sat through the trial “with great dignity and patience”.

She said that Miss Smith’s mother and Ruby-Grace’s grandmother, Melanie Hawkins, had “spoken eloquently of her world collapsing as a result of their deaths”.

“Her life will never be the same again,” said Mrs Justice Carr. “Her courage in speaking from the witness box will not be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it.”

The judge also referred to the parents of Mr Griffin, saying that they “spoke movingly of the enormity of their loss, and the devastating effect that Edward’s death has had on them, his grandparents and three younger siblings”.

“Edward was a fine young man,” said the judge. “A talented musician and a physically strong sportsman, who was working hard as a farmhand at the time.

“He was a role model to his brothers and sisters, who miss him desperately.”

Mrs Justice Carr also praised the “meticulous and highly professional work of the fire service and police” for their “painstaking investigation” into such a sensitive case.

“Without this, justice may never have been done,” she said.

Outside the court, Mrs Hawkins said: “We will never be able to forgive them for what they did.”