A MAN accused of the murder of his girlfriend’s five-year-old son, who died following a blaze at her home, has told a jury it was she who had thrown petrol around the kitchen.
And, giving evidence at Warwick Crown Court, Aaron Medcraft said he had left the house in Wentworth Road, Rugby, before it was set alight, and ran back after seeing a flash.
Medcraft, 23, of Matlock Close, Rugby, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of the boy, who cannot be named to protect the identities of the surviving children.
He has also denied the attempted murder of the mother and two of her other children, and an alternative charge of arson with intent to endanger life.
The charges follow the death of the five-year-old boy who died in hospital four months after suffering horrific injuries in the house fire allegedly started by Medcraft in November 2018.
Prosecutor Kevin Hegarty QC has alleged that during a row in the early hours of the morning, Medcraft threatened to kill his girlfriend and her children, and poured petrol around the kitchen.
“Then he pulled out a lighter and sparked it, igniting the petrol, and ran from the house,” the jury was told.
She and the two oldest children got out before she rushed back into the blazing house and carried the boy out – but he succumbed to his injuries, and died in hospital in March 2019.
As he gave evidence, Medcraft’s barrister Katherine Thorne QC put to him: “It will be suggested to you that you are responsible for [the boy’s] death.” Medcraft replied: “No.”
Miss Thorne continued: “It will be suggested that you lit the fire intending to hurt people in that house, that you poured petrol around the house, and that you set light to the petrol.”
To each of those suggestions, Medcraft responded: “No, that’s incorrect.”
Of the events the previous day, Medcraft accepted using his girlfriend’s bank card to make cash withdrawals.
“She would give me her bank card, that would be for drugs,” he explained, and said he went to get some cocaine during the morning, after the children had gone to school, and that they took a gram of the drug between them.
Asked if he left the house again, he said: “Yes, I was going out to get more cocaine because we had run out.”
Medcraft, who said he returned at about 7pm, continued: “I said I had got some cocaine, and she said ‘come in then.’ We took some cocaine and had a couple of [cannabis] spliffs.”
He said he went out again after the children were in bed to withdraw more money from her account ‘for more cocaine,’ which he said she had asked him to do, and also bought a bottle of rum.
“Then I went straight back to [her] house. I think we drank it between us, and we consumed the cocaine.”
Asked by Miss Thorne how much cocaine they had consumed that day, Medcraft answered ‘about four or five grams between us.’
Of his girlfriend’s behaviour, he said: “She was alright to start with, but when she starts kicking off she becomes erratic. She’s aggressive and she starts lashing out.”
Asked if they fell out, he said: “Yes, in the early hours of the morning, she was asking me to go out again. By this time I was fed up of it, and I wasn’t going out again.”
Medcraft said there were two petrol cans at the house – one in an outhouse and one in the kitchen or the dining room for a stolen motorbike he had received, but had recently sold.
Miss Thorne asked: “When did you become aware of it being part of the argument?”
He answered: “When she picked it up. As she picked it up she tried to throw it around everywhere. I tried grabbing it off her and we were toing and froing with it. She was throwing it around. We were basically having a tug-of-war.
“I think there was a lot of screaming and shouting. She was and I was, and the kids did appear. I was concentrating on trying to get it from her.
“When I got it off her I chucked it to the floor. She was saying ‘help me, my eyes.’ She had petrol in her eyes.
“Before I could help her she picked the petrol up again and she was throwing it around.
“I ran out of the front door. I thought if I left she wouldn’t do it, that it would defuse it, sort of thing.
“I thought she was trying to do me, to be honest, but it did occur to me that she was going to set fire to the house. I thought she was going to do me in, kill me. I thought if I left she would calm down.”
Asked what he thought about the danger to the children, Medcraft replied: “I wasn’t thinking. I was just trying to get out for my own safety. I should have grabbed the kids.
“I ran straight out of the door and slammed it behind me and started walking away.
“A couple of houses away I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye. I carried on walking. I was thinking ‘no, she hasn’t,’ but then I thought she might have done.
“I ran back. I saw a burn through the front door. I ran down to the front door and swung the door open, and the heat hit me and I stepped back.
“I seen the flames coming out of the kitchen. They were quite high, up to the ceiling. The rest of the house was fine, it was just the kitchen.
“I seen a figure. It looked like it had walked out of the kitchen. It was pretty dark, just a glow from the kitchen, and there was smoke.”
He said he did not know who it was at first, but then realised it was the boy ‘and started screaming to him to come to me, and I got him out of the house and told him to roll around on the floor.’
He said he did not think the boy was burned at that stage, and asked why he then ran off, he said: “I just panicked.”
Medcraft agreed he did not know where the mother and the other two children were, and asked whether he made any attempt to find out, he said: “No I didn’t. I should have. I was scared.”
Asked why he did not call 999 or try to get help, he replied: “I was in shock. I wish I did get help, because I should have done. I should have gone to the neighbours or got the fire service, I should have done something.”
Medcraft added that he found out the following morning how serious it had been, and that people were blaming him, so decided to go to the police ‘to tell them what had happened.’ The trial continues.