The deaths of two young brothers killed in a house fire started by their father ‘could not have been predicted’, a review has found.
Talented musician Jack Sykes, 12, and his aspiring athlete brother Paul, nine, died after a blaze at a house in Penistone on October 22 last year.
Earlier this year, an inquest heard how the boys’ father, Darren Sykes, lured his sons into the attic of the property in Tennyson Close with a new train set and then barricaded the house before setting it on fire.
The two boys were rescued from the home with their father but Paul and Mr Sykes, 44, died later the same evening.
Jack was rescued still conscious by firefighters from the bottom of the loft ladder but died five days later in hospital in Manchester.
He managed to tell a police officer and hospital consultant before he died from 50 per cent burns: “It was my dad that started the fire” and “My dad did it on purpose”.
The inquest heard Mr Sykes, worried over access rights to his children, ‘coldly planned’ the fire at his home ‘with the specific purpose of ending two young lives’.
Barnsley Safeguarding Children Board published a serious case review which has concluded: “The deliberate, devastating actions of (Mr Sykes) on 22 October 2014 could not have been predicted by anyone.”
The report said: “Research suggests that such incidents are rare, that the vast majority of estranged fathers would not consider such actions and that there is no known way of identifying those who will do so. Historically there was no information regarding the family to cause concerns.
“Neither (Mr Sykes’s) known offending history nor his mental health history was sufficient to make agencies believe that he posed a significant threat to himself or others.
“The coroner made it clear at the inquest into the children’s deaths that there was no knowledge by a public authority of any identifiable risk of such an event taking place and that none of the agencies involved with the family had fundamentally failed in their duty to the family.”
Coroner Chris Dorries concluded in March that the two boys had been unlawfully killed and Mr Sykes’s death was suicide.
Following the inquest, the boys’ mother Claire Throssell said Paul ‘was so caring and always helping others’, while Jack was an ‘amazing musician’ who ‘didn’t have a bad bone in his body’.
According to the review, the boys’ parents had split up earlier in 2014 and there had been a dispute over contact arrangements.
At the time of their deaths, they were living with their mother and grandmother and court proceedings to determine contact arrangements with their father were ongoing.
It said interim arrangements were in place for contact twice each week.
The report said that social services only became involved with the family in June last year after Paul told a teacher his father was verbally and physically abusive.
During the only face-to-face meeting between the boys and social workers, “both children said that their father emotionally abused them and that they were scared of him”.
The report said: “They referred to him kicking them and (Paul) described him as ‘pure nasty’.”
Police also had some involvement with the family. Officers were called by the boys’ grandmother who said Mr Sykes had been to her house, thrown her daughter’s belongings into the garden and threatened her.
The report said Mr Sykes had a caution for assaulting a neighbour in 2011.
The boy’s mother, Claire Throssall told ITV Calendar News: “It’s nearly a year now and you just feel like your heart’s shattered all over again to know that there were so many opportunities.
“Nobody could foresee what he did but the warning signs were there that he wasn’t fit to have them.”