Dad lured sons to death trap

Darren Sykes with his son Paul  (L) and Jack (R)
Darren Sykes with his son Paul (L) and Jack (R)
  • Man bought a train set and told his sons he needed ‘two drivers’
  • Fire service found 16 pools of petrol and a barricade at scene of fire
  • Text sent saying ‘I’m going to be at peace’ just before ignition
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A man barricaded his two young sons inside his South Yorkshire home, doused it in petrol 
and set it alight – killing the three of them, his inquest heard.

Darren Sykes, aged 44, had carefully planned his suicide and poured petrol throughout his home on the day he was due to see his two sons – two weeks after divorcing their mother.

On the day of the killing he went to a shop and spent £600 on toy trains before texting the boys – Jack, aged nine, and 12-year-old Paul – to tell them he needed two train drivers ahead of their visit that night in October last year.

Hours later, he barricaded a door inside his petrol-soaked Penistone home and set it alight while the trio were in the loft playing with the new train set.

An inquest into Mr Sykes’ death at Sheffield’s Medicolegal Centre, heard he and his wife Claire had divorced two weeks before the tragedy.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue sniffer dogs found 16 pools of petrol had been poured around the house, including 14 on the first floor alone, although there was none in the loft.

Two days before the fatal blaze, Mr Sykes met mediators to talk about access to his children, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hall told the court.

The day before the fire he transferred some investments he owned into a friend’s bank account.

On the day of the incident he bought £600 worth of trains from a model railway store, before going to a Penistone garage and filling three cans with petrol.

That afternoon he texted his sons to tell them he needed ‘two railway drivers’ for the locomotives.

Det Sgt Hall said at about 5pm Mr Sykes posted a letter to his bank which said: “I won’t be paying the mortgage any more because I won’t be alive.”

He told the court: “At 6.29pm, a message is sent from Mr Sykes’ phone. The same message is sent to six people.

“It basically says he is now going to be at peace.

“Within 30 seconds of that message being sent, the CCTV shows the ignition of a fire.”

The fire service was called within moments and crews arrived at 6.36pm to find the house well alight.

Mr Hall added: “There had been some efforts made to make a barricade within the property.

“A dining chair was placed between the kitchen door and the door leading to the stairs.”

Coroner Christopher Dorries said: “It’s not so much a block to anyone trying to get in, it’s more a blockage of anyone trying to get out?”

Det Sgt Hall agreed.

* Read more: South Yorkshire dad started fires as sons played trains

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