Monday 20 November 2017

Two little boys burned to death in their makeshift under the stairs den

Five year old Taylor Jenkins and his brother, seven year old Lewis, who died in a house fire in Eastbourne. Photo: PA
Five year old Taylor Jenkins and his brother, seven year old Lewis, who died in a house fire in Eastbourne. Photo: PA

Tom Pugh

TWO young brothers died when a fierce fire tore through a makeshift "den" they had created beneath the stairs at their home, an inquest heard today.

Seven-year-old Lewis Jenkins and his five-year-old brother Taylor died from smoke inhalation when the blaze broke out in their end-of-terrace house on October 4, 2008.

Investigators found a disposable lighter and several tealight candles in the area where they had been playing, beneath the stairs in Milfoil Drive, Eastbourne, East Sussex.

The brothers, described as "a handful", shared the house with their mother, Denise Goldsmith, who had split from their father, Stewart Jenkins, who is in prison.

The inquest heard that Ms Goldsmith was approaching one-and-a-half times the legal drink-drive limit when she gave a blood sample at 4.30pm on the day of the fire.

Toxicologist Ian Humphreys said back calculations suggested she would have been around four-and-a-half times the limit at 2.30am that morning.

In a statement to the inquest at Eastbourne Magistrates' Court, he said such a level of alcohol would normally lead to "extreme drunkenness" affecting a person's balance, co-ordination and speech.

Ms Goldsmith, who was facing eviction from the property, had turned to drink after her partner was sent to prison and struggled to cope with the boys' behaviour, according to a friend.

Victoria Quicke said: "When Stewart went to prison, Denise hit rock bottom and started drinking a lot more. She couldn't handle the boys, so she turned to drink."

The court heard that Lewis and Taylor had little routine at home, and frequently went to bed when and where they wanted, even when they had school the next day.

Ms Quicke said: "Denise couldn't cope with them. She didn't like to ask her family. She liked to think that she could do it all on her own."

Ms Goldsmith was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and neglect of the children following the fire but a decision was taken not to prosecute in February 2009.

She sat alongside relatives today occasionally weeping as she heard evidence of the final moments of her boys' lives.

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