Mum of Barnsley boys killed in fire started by their dad speaks of her heartbreak

Darren Sykes with his children Paul and Jack
Darren Sykes with his children Paul and Jack
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The devastated mum of two boys who died in a house fire started by their father has spoken of her heartbreak at her loss.

Paul Sykes, aged nine, and his brother Jack, 12, perished in the fire at their former family home in Tennyson Close, Penistone, which was started by their dad Darren Sykes.

His former wife Claire, mum of the two boys, claims Darren lured them to the attic of the former family home with a new train set and then torched the building because the couple had separated.

Darren also died in the inferno after locking himself in the loft with the two terrified boys.

Distraught Claire who clutched her sons’ blankets during the interview said: “They used to come down in the morning wrapped in them. 
“I can’t take them off because I can still smell them.”

Claire said her former husband was a cold hearted killer for conning the two boys into thinking they were set for a night of fun when in fact he was lining them up for a horrific and painful death last Wednesday.

She said: “I want people to know they were murdered by their father. He killed them because of pure evil spite.

“They had no chance. They were like rats in a trap and they fell for his cold and calculated plan.”

Claire, a buildings administrator, said she believes Sykes had been ­plotting to murder the boys since she split from him in April.

She said he had sent the brothers text messages at school on the day they died, telling them about a new train set.

She added: “He was sending them pictures of the train set and telling them: ‘You’ve got these lovely trains.’ They seemed quite excited that he was showing an interest.

“All kids are bribable ­especially if someone is being nice and loving.”

Darren picked the boys up from their grandmother Pam’s home at 6.10pm last Wednesday, where they had been living with Claire since the couple broke up.

The family believe the carpet fitter ­deliberately parked his van three streets away from the former marital home to make ­neighbours think he was out.

Claire, who was still at work when her ex arrived for the lads, said: “I can see them running hell for leather up those stairs. They must have shot straight into the attic not knowing what he had planned.

“He set it up as a playroom for them and as soon as they were in he shut the hatch. They must have been terrified.”

As the blaze took hold, ­neighbours called 999.

Claire, who last saw her sons that morning as they left for school, arrived back at Pam’s house and police knocked at the door around 6.40pm.

She said: “I thought it was the boys coming home early. But it was the police saying, ‘Come now, there’s been a fire.’”

Darren and Paul died that day in hospital.

Jack managed to flee the attic but was met by a wall of flames on the landing, leaving him with 56 per cent burns.

He died on Monday, five days later.

Claire was taken to Sheffield ­Children’s Hospital where she got the chance to say goodbye to Paul before he slipped away.

She said: “I held him in my arms. 
“I told him how much I loved him and he looked at me and then I saw the light go out of his eyes.

“At least I got to say that to him.”

Claire was later taken with Jack to Manchester Royal Infirmary where he was put on a life support machine.

She said: “They did so much to try to keep Jack alive. They saved him that night but he had 56 per cent burns and his little body couldn’t cope.

“I got into the bed with him and they let me put a cloth on his face so we could have contact. 
“I held him tight and told him how special he was to me.”

Claire was married to Darren for 16 years.

Speaking at Pam’s house in Thurlstone, she said he was ‘controlling’.

She said: “He wasn’t a very good dad and he knew it but he always wanted it to be his way.

“When we were living at the house, he had control of us, but when we moved out he couldn’t handle it.

“A court ordered he could only spend five hours a week with the boys and he knew we would be back in court soon for our divorce settlement. 
“I was due to get half of everything. He didn’t like that and he blamed me.

“He was adamant I wouldn’t get anything but I only wanted two things anyway - my boys.

“He wanted ­everything for himself and he didn’t want to risk me getting my fair half. 
“He’s taken away the only two things I really wanted. 
“It was his final way of taking control.”