Dad started fire as sons played trains

Darren Sykes with his son Paul  (L) and Jack (R)
Darren Sykes with his son Paul (L) and Jack (R)
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A sales representative who set a fire which took his life and those of his two little boys had carefully planned the blaze, an inquest into his death found.

Darren Sykes, aged 44, barricaded his young sons inside his home so they couldn’t escape and deliberately set fire to the property in Tennyson Close, Penistone, Barnsley.

Jack (R) mum Claire and Paul (L)''. rossparry syndication

Jack (R) mum Claire and Paul (L)''. rossparry syndication

Mr Sykes started the fire at around 6.30pm on October 22, 2014, while he and his sons were in the loft playing with a new train set.

Fire crews were called to the house and all three were quickly recovered.

But Mr Sykes and sons Paul and Jack, aged nine and twelve, all perished - Jack five days after the blaze.

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.

Mr Sykes and one of the boys was found in the loft, while the other child was found at the bottom of a ladder leading to the attic.

The court heard Mr Sykes died from inhaling toxic fumes.

Mr Dorries said: “The evidence before me is abundantly clear.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that this fire was set by anyone other than Mr Sykes.

“I have reached a conclusion that Mr Sykes took his own life by suicide.

“I want to tell you that I offer my deepest sympathies.

“The whole business is absolutely terrible and I cannot imagine the effect it has had on the various branches of the family, so please accept my condolences.”

Inquests into the deaths of Paul and Jack Sykes take place tomorrow.