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Updated for sentence: Nottingham neighbour jailed for house fire murder

|News, Violent crime

A man from Clifton in Nottingham has been imprisoned for killing a family of three in a house fire in November 2022.

Jamie Barrow, 31,was ordered to serve a minimum term of 44 years at Nottingham Crown Court  in July 2023, reduced to 38 years on appeal on 14 May 2024. 

Barrow (31) set the fire in the doorway of the flat next door to his own in Fairisle Close in the early hours of 20 November. His neighbour, Fatoumatta Hydara, and her two daughters Fatimah (3) and Naeemah (1) were asleep in their flat when Barrow poured petrol through the letterbox and set light to it. Despite the efforts of other neighbours and the emergency services to come to their rescue, they were trapped inside and died from the effects of the fire.

Barrow watched the fire take hold, before casually walking away from the area with his dog, leaving them trapped in the burning flat. When he returned, the emergency services dealing with the aftermath of the fire, he feigned ignorance and told nobody he had been responsible for the fire.

Barrow eventually admitted causing the fire and was charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter. He claimed that his actions had been influenced by a mental health condition and that he had not intended to do any harm to Mrs Hydara and the children. The CPS did not accept this, and, following a three-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court, he was convicted of three counts of murder and one count of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Suzanne Llewellyn from the CPS said: “Today’s sentence reflects the gravity of Jamie Barrow’s crime. We have reminded the court of his actions on the night last November and his complete disregard for what would happen to his neighbours when he set the fire. Through his self-centred actions, he took the lives of a mother and two young children with their lives ahead of them.  

"This was an offence that affected the whole community, but first and foremost our hearts go out to the family and friends of Fatoumatta, Fatima and Naeema. They have endured so much, yet they have behaved with dignity throughout this harrowing trial. I hope that being able to see Jamie Barrow face the consequences of his criminal actions will give them some closure and enable them to rebuild their lives."

Building the case

To prove a case of murder, the CPS must prove to a jury that as well being the person responsible, that the defendant intended to kill or do really serious harm to the victims.

Jamie Barrow eventually admitted starting the fire, but claimed he thought the flat was unoccupied and that he was not in control of his actions due to his mental health. The prosecution’s case was that at the point when he set the fire, he intended to kill or seriously harm his neighbours, Mrs Hydara and the two children.

During the trial, the CPS demonstrated that his claim he was certain the flat was unoccupied was completely implausible. We demonstrated that his claim that he had not seen or heard them was not consistent with his own accounts, his movements captured on CCTV and evidence from other witnesses. This evidence demonstrated that he would have been able to hear the family during the day, to have seen lights on when he went out after dark and would have seen the pushchair that had been left outside the flat.

The CPS instructed a psychiatric expert to give evidence about Barrow’s claim that he had not been in control of his actions. While there was evidence that his mental health issues were a key part of what happened, they did not provide any defence for his actions. The evidence put before the jury was that Barrow had a history of urges to harm others and acting on those urges. We presented evidence that in putting on plastic gloves, selecting a suitable bottle and throwing the nozzle away to then syphon petrol from his motorbike was evidence that he was acting in a thoughtful, deliberate and calculating way. The prosecution case was that his cognitive ability and his ability to think through the consequences of his actions were not impaired.

The evidence showed that Barrow had given inconsistent accounts when first asked what he had been doing when the fire took hold. He claimed he had grabbed his dog and fled when the fire started. However, his first account was inconsistent with the CCTV evidence. The prosecution’s case was that he had changed his account to fit the evidence, so had not ben telling the truth to begin with.

The CPS also presented evidence of Barrow’s demeanour once the fire took hold. Once it was obvious that the victims were trapped in the flat, Barrow showed no sign of shock or surprise and made no attempt to summon help. Instead, he left the area and returned shortly afterwards. In the aftermath he showed no interest in the fate of his neighbours, instead asking the police to look for some keys he had mislaid and asking if he would be compensated for any smoke damage to his belongings. The prosecution’s case was that this showed he knew what was happening and had intended to do serious harm when he set the fire.

This and other evidence was presented to show that Barrow had deliberately set a fire to satisfy his negative feelings in the knowledge and intent that it would cause significant damage and do serious harm to the family inside.

Notes to editors

Further reading

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