Author Milly Johnson raises £20,000 for mum who lost two sons in house fire

Claire Throssell and Milly Johnson
Claire Throssell and Milly Johnson
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A Yorkshire author has raised more than £20,000 to support a mother whose two children were killed in a house fire to rebuild her life.

Milly Johnson wrote a special short story, The Barn on Half Moon Hill, to donate the proceeds to Penistone mother Claire Throssell, whose two sons Jack, 12, and Paul, nine, were killed in a house fire started by their father Darren Sykes in 2014.

Sykes also cancelled the home insurance before starting the blaze, leaving Claire facing destitution and massive debts on a fire-ravaged house. But the local community volunteered hundreds of hours of free time to rebuild the property so it could be sold and allow Claire to pay off the mortgage.

More than £23,000 has been separately raised from the sales of Milly’s book - money that will partly be spent by Claire on going on holiday to Italy to see an opera that would have been enjoyed by her music-loving boys.

The story was published as an ebook, sold online for 99p, with all proceeds going to Claire.

Claire said she was thrilled by the support from Milly, who has said she wanted the money to go directly to improving Claire’s quality of life after a harrowing few years.

“It is a massive help. I have always wanted to go and watch an opera in Italy and this will enable me to do that. Jack would have loved to go to an opera as music was his life.”

Claire said the entire community of Penistone has helped her keep going through the darkness of losing her sons.

“The community have just been amazing. On the day of the final farewell, they formed a ring around the church three-deep, a ring of love, and that has not broken.

“The house was completely destroyed and it was rebuilt into a new home. With that, I have been able to pay for a flat and clear the £50,000 mortgage.

“People have voluntereed 1,100 hours to do it. Those men that went in first, those things they had to see I can’t imagine. They went in and emptied the house. It is just incredible.”

Milly said she is pleased she has been able to help Claire and hopes more people keep buying the book.

“I’m absolutely delighted for her and I so look forward to knowing what the royalties for The Barn on Half Moon Hill have earned for her knowing it will do a little to bring some joy into her life.

"Nothing can make up for what she has lost and we wouldn’t try to, but plenty of people want to make life bearable for her. She is such a lovely person, it’s not a task to help out.

“Thank you everyone who bought it. There is no such thing as a ‘little kindness’ and though you might think you’ve just donated only 99p, look at how all those 99ps have added up.”