Murder conviction – Neighbour sets fire to pushchair and kills five

melanie smith

Melanie Smith, aged 43, was convicted of murder on 30 April 2013.

She was foudnd guilty of murdering Lee-Anna Shiers, aged 20, her 15-month old son Charlie, his father Liam Timbrell, aged 23, Ms Shiers’ nephew Bailey Allen, aged 4 and his sister Skye, aged 2.

Smith deliberately set fire to a pushchair which was left in a communal area of the residence in which Smith and Timbrell. She was drunk and angry that it had been left in the shared hallway.

Smith will be sentenced on Wednesday 8th May.

A life sentence is mandatory, and the minimum term is likely to be lengthy.

Image courtesy of Daily Mail/PA.

6 thoughts on “Murder conviction – Neighbour sets fire to pushchair and kills five

  1. John Allman

    I can see a manslaughter here. Causing death as the result of a deliberate and inherently dangerous act is what I remember from school as one type of manslaughter. She can be deemed to have the mens rea for manslaughter, that she knew setting fire to the pushchair was inherently dangerous, and did no deliberately. Voluntary intoxication is no excuse.

    But how did the prosecution prove intent to cause death or GBH, the mens read for murder? What was evidence could there possibly be for that mental element of the the crime of murder? Did she confess intent?

    Would there have been anything to prevent life imprisonment with a whole life tariff, if the CPS had taken the safer route, of charging her with manslaughter, more-or-less guaranteeing a conviction?

    If this was murder, then why was Mick Philpott (correctly) charged with manslaughter?

    Not that this academic question will make any difference to her sentence, but it is niggling me.

    1. Lyndon Harris Post author

      Thanks for the comments.

      Andrew -Re whole life, it doesn’t apply because there is no previous murder conviction, no murder of a child with sexual/sadistic conduct and no multiple murder with sexual/sadistic conduct, significant planning or abduction of the victim. Those factors are just suggestions and there is a discretion to impose whole life but it is extremely rare. There are something in the region of 40 people serving whole life at the moment.

      Re manslaughter, we have to assume that the prosecution case was that she intended to cause really serious injury by her actions. Without any further information it is mere speculation as to why that was. I assume that is the difference between this and the Philpotts case – the intention. His intention was clearly to rescue the children. Here, the intention must have been the requisite intent for murder.

      As for a whole life sentence for manslaughter, I know of no case where this has happened. It would be virtually impossible to justify as the conviction itself would accept that there was no intention to kill. On what grounds would you suggest a whole life tariff was appropriate for manslaughter?

      The top sentences for manslaughter tend to be minimum term of 15 years (e.g. Philpotts)

  2. Andrew

    Not sure about the planning – but all right, not a whole life case. But with six victims including children anything less than 30 years would be a travesty.

  3. Andrew

    Now I think further of it: to cause or attempt to cause death by fire is a sadistic thing to do. We shudder when we read of people burnt at the stake in past ages because it is a horrible and painful way to die – and that is what this defendant did.

    Well: if I were the judge I would issue the ancient writ de clave sanguinare abiacienda – which such Latin scholars as remain will know means Throw the bloody key away.

  4. Pingback: Melanie Smith sentenced for murder – 30 year tariff | UK Criminal Law Blog

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