Three teenagers who killed a woman by pushing a firework through her letterbox following a string of bullying attacks on her son have been jailed.
Mary Fox, 59, died in the fire in Bodmin, Cornwall on Bonfire Night last year after the Silver Dart was thrust inside to “frighten” the family as part of a prank aimed at her son Raum, then 17, who escaped through a window of the blazing council home in Wallace Road.
Owen Hewitt 18, and Samuel Luckes, 17, were each jailed for seven years at Truro Crown Court for the manslaughter of the mother of nine. They were also each sentenced to three years concurrently for committing arson being reckless as to whether Raum’s life was endangered and a third teenager, Ryan Croft, 18, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, was given five years for manslaughter and two years for arson, also running concurrently.
Opening the case to the jury earlier this month prosecutor Paul Dunkels QC said: “On November 5 last year three young men were wandering around Bodmin with a large quantity of fireworks. They took a rocket, snapped the stick off it, lit it and put it through the letter box of the home of Mary Fox and her son Raum. It set fire to the house. Raum was able to escape by jumping out of the first floor window. Mary Fox could not get out. She was overcome by fumes and smoke from the fire, and died.”
The group did not intend such dire consequences but only wanted to “give the occupants a fright,” Mr Dunkels added.
Hewitt, of Bodmin Foyer, Kestenenn and Luckes, of Rhind Street, Bodmin, had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mrs Fox, and also denied arson, Croft, of Wallace Road, had earlier admitted both allegations, the jury heard.
Raum had been bullied at school because of his acne and alternative dress sense, Mr Dunkels said. When Mrs Fox escorted him to school that just made the problem worse, he added. He said: “Raum Fox, 17 at the time, used to be bullied at school. He had bad acne on his face, and used to dress differently to other children.”
Before the incident some £100 worth of fireworks were bought by Hewitt’s stepfather from a supermarket, which Hewitt carried in his rucksack, allegedly boasting about how many he had as the group drank beer together that evening. At around 6pm the group went to buy tobacco for Croft’s mother, and began “messing around” with the fireworks on the way through the Berryfields estate, where they passed the Fox home, lit the firework, snapped off the stick and pushed it through the letterbox,” Mr Dunkels said.
Raum, who was in his bedroom, smelled smoke and saw it coming into his room across the ceiling. Mr Dunkels said: “He went to his mother’s bedroom and got her out. She tried to go downstairs but was beaten back by the smoke so he led her into his bedroom. Raum found it difficult to breathe. He crouched down to try to get beneath the smoke. He opened the window, telling his mother that he was going to jump out to get help.”
But Mrs Fox, who was not agile, did not jump, and was later found to have died from the inhalation of smoke and toxic gases.