A MAN who insisted a woman had started the Rugby house fire which tragically claimed the life of her five-year-old son has been cleared of the young boy’s murder.
Aaron Medcraft had pleaded not guilty to that charge and also denied an alternative charge of manslaughter, three charges of attempted murder and arson with intent to endanger life.
And after just under six hours at the end of a four-week trial at Warwick Crown Court, a jury found Medcraft, 23, of Matlock Close, Rugby, not guilty of all charges by unanimous verdicts.
The charges followed the death of the five-year-old boy, who died in hospital four months after suffering horrific injuries in the November 2018 house fire which Medcraft had been accused of starting.
Earlier in the trial, prosecutor Kevin Hegarty QC had alleged that during a row in the early hours of the morning, Medcraft threatened to kill the boy’s mother, and poured petrol around the kitchen.
He alleged: “Then he pulled out a lighter and sparked it, igniting the petrol, and ran from the house.”
He told the jury that the mother got out through a window 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.
But Medcraft blamed her for the blaze, telling the jury that during the argument she picked up a can of petrol he had at the house and began ‘throwing it around.’
He said there was a ‘tug-of-war’ between them, seen by the children when they came downstairs having been woken by the noise, and he managed to get it off her.
But he said she ‘picked the petrol up again and she was throwing it around,’ so he left the house, hoping she would calm down if he did so – then saw a flash as he was two doors away.
Medcraft said he ran back and ‘the heat hit me’ as he opened the door, and he saw the five-year-old and screamed to him to come out, which he said the boy did.
He said he told the boy to roll on the floor, but he accepted he then left without trying to help further or calling the fire brigade.
Medcraft agreed he did not know where the mother and others in the house 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 jury was played a recorded interview with a witness who, asked what had happened that night, said: “Aaron got some petrol and tipped it on the floor, and then [the mother] threw the lighter down on it.
“We got out through the window, and then she went back in to get [the five-year-old], then came the fire brigade.”
Earlier the jury had heard the woman was seen coming out of the front door carrying the five-year-old.
Asked about Medcraft, the witness said: “He was dealing drugs and robbing and stuff like that. He just did nasty things to people. He started fights and stuff, and dealing drugs to under-age people in the park.
He said he had seen Medcraft pour some petrol into an apple juice bottle, and continued: “He threw the whole bottle around, and then he left and got on his bike, and then [the woman] threw the lighter down.
“She swore and threw it down as he went out of the door. It happened very fast.
“She threw it so hard on the ground that it broke. She flicked it and dashed it down from a real height. It broke and that caused a massive fire.”