Derbyshire fire that killed three people was ‘foolish revenge attack that went wrong’

North St, Langley Mill, scene of fatal fire.
North St, Langley Mill, scene of fatal fire.

A fatal fire was started by a father and his two sons as a “foolish revenge attack that went terribly wrong”, Nottingham Crown Court was told.

It was a plan hatched after Shane Gaunt had accused another of Peter Eyre’s sons, 18-year-old Aaron Henshaw, of stealing his moped.

Edward Green. Picture submitted.

Edward Green. Picture submitted.

Earlier on the night of the murders, Mr Gaunt, who had been drinking, and friend Edward Green confronted Peter and Anthony Eyre and also Mr Henshaw outside their home on Central Avenue, Sandiacre about the moped theft.

Abusive words were exchanged, and Peter Eyre’s van was damaged. After the skirmish, the two youths were chased away in Peter Eyre’s “distinctive Skoda car”, only for Mr Henshaw to be arrested for breaching his electronically tagged curfew, the court heard.

So angry did Eyre snr remain that, not long afterwards, a reconnaissance trip was made in the Skoda to ascertain where Mr Gaunt lived.

Son Simon was also summoned from his new home nearby and, at about 3.30 in the morning, the Eyre trio drove to Langley Mill, with the father at the wheel.

When they got to the three-storey block of flats where they knew Mr Gaunt was, Peter Eyre stayed in the car while his sons approached the front door of the building.

They poured petrol from a Lucozade bottle in a porch area and also splashed it on a nearby car and wheelie-bins before the fire was set with a naked flame from a lighter.

It was, said the judge, Mrs Justice Carr, “a recipe for disaster”. Within minutes, the fatal fire had taken hold, setting off smoke alarms and triggering 999 calls.

“But for the actions of neighbours, more would have died,” said the judge. “The young people inside the flat tried to escape up and down the stairs.

“They tried unsuccessfully to unlock the front door, but had difficulty breathing and seeing in the smoke.

“Accompanied by panic and terror, they were screaming and shouting. It must have been truly terrifying.

“There was undoubtedly real mental and physical suffering in the awful minutes before these young people and a baby died.”

Neighbour Craig McFarlane led the rescue attempt and spoke of seeing “two lads hanging out the window upstairs”.

Those “two lads”, Mr Gaunt and Mr Holt, eventually got out of the building by scrambling down ladders.

But horrified firefighters found the body of Miss Smith on the landing, holding her dead baby in a blanket. Mr Green was found close to the front door, which was the only means of getting in and out of the flats.