Burglar began fire killing man and girl to destroy break-in evidence, court told

A man and his eight-year-old daughter died in a house fire set by a burglar who wanted to destroy evidence of a break-in across the street, a jury has heard.

Daniel Jones, 29, was worried that CCTV footage from the home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, would reveal the raid he carried out three days earlier, Leeds Crown Court was told.

Andrew Broadhead, his wife, Sara, and their daughters, Mia and Kiera, were asleep in the early hours of October 19 last year when it is alleged Jones poured petrol through their front door letterbox and set it alight.

Mrs Broadhead and elder daughter Mia managed to escape but Mr Broadhead, 42, and Kiera were overcome by the rapidly spreading smoke and fire and were later pronounced dead at the scene in Ash Crescent, Stanley.

Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, told jurors: "I make it plain from the outset that Daniel Jones did not set fire to the Broadheads' house because he had some sort of grudge against them.

"He did it because he wanted to destroy evidence of another crime that he had committed a few days earlier.

"He had burgled a nearby house, he feared the consequences of him doing that and he thought that some CCTV from the Broadheads' house might show him doing the burglary.

"He wanted to destroy that CCTV by setting fire to the house."

Mr Sharp added it was "virtually certain" that by doing so the defendant would also kill, or at the very least seriously injure, anyone asleep in the property.

Debt-ridden Jones was said to have stolen a safe from a friend's house in Ash Crescent in the early hours of October 16, the court was told.

The friend quickly became suspicious that Jones was the culprit and invited him to his address on the evening of October 18.

Jones was challenged about the theft and denied it but was then told that CCTV in the neighbourhood, including the Broadhead family home at number 55 Ash Crescent, could have caught him in the act.

Jones's friend told him the Broadheads were on holiday and due back in a few days.

However, that information was incorrect and the family returned home earlier on October 18, jurors heard.

Mr Sharp said the upstairs light of number 55 was on when Jones was seen walking past on his arrival but a "significant" moment followed on his departure when CCTV footage showed him looking up at the same address where the upstairs light was now off.

The prosecutor told the jury they might think that was the "clearest indication" to Jones that the house was occupied.

In the early hours of the next day a tracker device on the defendant's delivery van showed he went to a garage in Leeds to fill up with diesel.

He was captured on CCTV shortly after while visiting a massage parlour in the city before he stopped off at another garage where he bought 3.75 litres of petrol.

The van later pulled into a track off Aberford Road, a few minutes walk from Ash Crescent, shortly before 3.30am.

The vehicle drove off just after 4.20am - five minutes after the blaze was started when a person, said to be Jones, is seen to approach the Broadhead family home, starts the fire and then runs away.

Jones, of Spawd Bone Lane, Knottingley, denies two counts of murder.

Mr Sharp told the jury: "The fire quickly took hold and began burning its way through the whole of the house.

"Neighbours tried to help the family and they rescued Sara and Mia Broadhead. Some of them tried to enter number 55 to try and help Andrew and Kiera who were still inside the house but the smoke and heat from the fire made that impossible.

"When the fire brigade arrived they found Kiera and Andrew. Each of them had collapsed inside the house near to the bedroom that they would have been trying to use to escape. Both were pronounced dead at the scene."

The court heard that following the blaze the defendant carried out a number of internet searches on news websites to find out what was being reported about the incident.

Jones was arrested on October 22 and intially denied being responsible for the earlier burglary and the fire as he claimed he was at home in bed all night.

When told of the van tracker data, said Mr Sharp, and of CCTV evidence which had been obtained, he chose to answer "no comment" to nearly all of the questions he was then asked.

The prosecutor said Jones was "clearly concerned" about the evidence that showed him buying petrol in Leeds before he drove to Stanley and that may be why he later explained he had done so to fill up his friend's motorbike.

According to the defendant, when he took it to Aberford Road the friend did not turn up so he took the petrol home.

Mr Sharp said that Jones, in an attempt to make his explanation more credible, arranged for someone to a put a can of petrol near his home which was later collected via his solicitors in July.

However when police inspected the plastic can it revealed a 2017 manufacturer's stamp and could not have been in existence at the time of the blaze.

The trial, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues.

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