A FIVE-year-old boy tragically died in hospital four months after suffering horrific injuries in a house fire allegedly started by his mother’s boyfriend after a row.
Aaron Medcraft is accused of sprinkling petrol around the kitchen of the house in Rugby and setting light to it, leaving his girlfriend and three of her children to their fate.
The mother and the two oldest children got out, before she rushed back into the blazing house in Wentworth Road, Rugby, and carried the five-year-old boy out in her arms.
But the youngster tragically succumbed to the injuries he had suffered in the fire in the early hours of November 15 2018, and died in hospital in March the following year.
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.
Prosecutor Kevin Hegarty QC told the jury: “On the night of the 14th of November 2018 a woman was at home with three of her children. During the evening the defendant came to the house.
“He had been to the house many times before. There was an argument between Aaron Medcraft and [the mother].
“The argument ended with Aaron Medcraft throwing petrol around the kitchen of the house and then lighting it and leaving.
“At about a quarter to three on the morning of the 15th of November Aaron Medcraft cycled away from the burning house, leaving [the mother and children] in the house – leaving them there, we say, to burn.”
And the youngest of the children, a five-year-old boy, was so badly burned that ‘he eventually succumbed to his terrible injuries and died on the 21st of March 2019.’
His mother suffered serious burns to her legs, her right arm and her face, but the two older children, aged eight and ten, escaped ‘with little or no injury.’
Mr Hegarty said the mother and Medcraft, who had been a friend of her late partner, had begun a relationship, but he had become increasingly violent and manipulative.
The row between them on that night had been brewing after Medcraft got angry about her being on the phone to a friend, and when the call ended he started pushing her around, threatening he was going to kill her and the children, it was alleged.
“He went out to a lean-to and came back in with a green petrol can which contained petrol, and he started saying he was going to set the house on fire with them in it.
“He started pouring petrol around the kitchen and into the doorway and onto her. She went upstairs to wash the petrol off her face and change her top.
“She went back downstairs where the row continued. She was trying to get him to leave, but he would not go and told her if he could not have her, then no-one could.
“Then he pulled out a lighter and sparked it, igniting the petrol, and ran from the house.”
As the house started to burn, the two older children ran out, but there was no sign of the five-year-old, and his mother ran back into the house to try to find him.
“She found him in the hall by the stairs. By then he must have been very badly burned, and you can imagine the noise he was making,” Mr Hegarty told the jury.
“Surrounded by flames, she scooped him up and the two of them fled from the inferno. A neighbour saw her emerge carrying [the boy] in her arms. She was in a state of distress.”
In the meantime, Medcraft had cycled to the home of a friend where he took off his polo shirt and borrowed another top.
He told his friend the mother had pulled out a lighter and that he had run past her to get out as she had set fire to herself while the kids were there, and that he had seen one of the children ‘in flames.’
Mr Hegarty commented: “At no stage did he say he had called for the fire service or an ambulance, or that he had done anything to help her or the children.”
The mother and children had been taken to hospital, where the young boy was in a critical condition, and Medcraft was arrested later that day on suspicious of arson with intent.
In his first interview he said he and the mother had been taking cocaine and drinking rum, and that she had got the can of petrol and splashed it about as he tried to get it from her.
He said she got it back and was throwing petrol around, so he left the house, but then saw a flash and ran back and there were ‘flames everywhere’ when he opened the door.
Medcraft said he saw the five-year-old and grabbed him out of the house and told him to roll on the floor – but then ran off ‘supposedly in panic,’ said Mr Hegarty.
In a later interview he said he had thought the mother was intending to light the petrol, but thought that if he left, it would defuse the situation and she would not do it.
After saying in another interview he did not know if the boy was on fire, he later described him as coming out of the doorway ‘covered in flames.’
And Mr Hegarty posed to the jury: “Let us consider that position. A child covered in flames, and you know there are two other children in the house.
“You have got one out, on your account, and told this small child to roll around. What’s the next thing you do? Do you just get on your bicycle and ride away?
“Might his account that he pulled him out of the house be true? What do we know?
“We know that one of the witnesses saw [the mother] and the two older children, then she saw her return in the direction of the burning house and disappear and then reappear carrying [the boy] in her arms.
“If that was the first time [the boy] emerged from the burning house, Aaron Medcraft’s account cannot be true.
“For his account to be true, that five-year-old would have had to return into the burning house from which he had already escaped, for his mother to then carry him out.
“We say that is inconceivable, and therefore that Aaron Medcraft’s account is a lie.
“We argue that he has made up this account to show he had tried to save him, and to cover up his own guilt for setting fire to the house.”
The trial continues.