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Life sentence for mother in law murder

|News, Violent crime

A woman from Newark has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering her seriously ill mother-in-law by setting a fire in her home while she was asleep.

Karen Vamplew set the fatal blaze at her mother in law Elizabeth Vamplew’s home if the early hours of 15 December 2021. Mrs Vamplew, known by her family as Ann, was chronically ill with a serious lung condition, was deaf and had very limited mobility. She required visits from carers twice a day.

Karen Vamplew had significant debts and had been accessing money from Mrs Vamplew’s bank account, but this had been stopped by the victim’s bank, after the account had been all but depleted. The prosecution’s case was that, once the bank had blocked her access to the victim’s money, she killed her for the money her husband stood to inherit.

Just after midnight, she visited Mrs Vamplew’s home, set the fire and then returned to make a pretence of calling the emergency services. She was arrested and questioned shortly afterwards and, following CPS advice to the investigation, was prosecuted for murder. She was convicted by a jury at Leicester Crown Court following a four-week trial and was today sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 32 years.

Andrew Baxter from the CPS said: “Mrs Vamplew’s tragic death was caused by the greed of her own daughter in law. Karen Vamplew had been helping herself to her money and, once this was spent, she killed her in the most cynical and calculating way possible to get her hands on the inheritance.

“Vamplew had been posing as a dutiful, caring relative, but this trial had uncovered the reality, that Mrs Vamplew was a nuisance to her and she was just out for financial gain. I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathies to Mrs Vamplew’s extended family and loved ones who must feel the betrayal of one so close to them.”

Building the case

The main hurdle for the CPS to overcome in proving that Karen Vamplew was responsible for her mother in law-s death was whether the fire had been started deliberately. Mrs Vamplew was known to be a smoker, so it was essential that the jury could be certain that her death had not been caused by an accidental fire started by Mrs Vamplew smoking in bed.

The CPS advised that extensive investigations into the cause of the fire were needed before any charges could be considered, These investigations revealed that the fire could only have been started by applying a flame directly to the bedding while Mrs Vamplew was sleeping. There were no traces of smoking materials there and the only trace of Mrs Vamplew’s smoking habit were found where she always left them and Mrs Vamplew had, as she usually did, extinguished them under the tap.

Mrs Vamplew would not have been able to hear this happening around her, and would therefore not have woken up to sound the alarm as she routinely did not wear her hearing aid when she was sleeping.

The CPS presented financial evidence to demonstrate that Vamplew had been accessing money regularly from her mother in law’s account and evidence that the defendant knew that her husband would inherit half of the estate.

CCTV evidence showed that she had visited Mrs Vamplew’s home just after midnight and that she had run away half an hour later, before returning to raise the alarm. By then the fire had taken hold and there was no prospect of Mrs Vamplew surviving.

Vamplew claimed that she had forgotten her keys and was unable to get into the property. CCTV evidence revealed that she had driven to the property, but parked some distance away, instead of immediately outside as she usually did. She kept her key to Mrs Vamplew’s home on the same keyring as her car keys.

This evidence combined to build a case that this was a planned killing, financially motivated after she had lost her access to Mrs Vamplew’s bank account.

Notes to editors

  • Andrew Baxter is a Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor at CPS East Midlands.

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