Murder trial starts
A woman told a murder trial today how
she watched her husband burn alive in their family home during an
alleged arson attack by their son-in-law.
Amanda Crook, 50, escaped a blaze at
Chatham Hill last September which killed her husband Mark, daughter
Melissa, 20, and 15-month-old grandson Noah.
Melissa’s estranged husband Danai
Muhammadi (pictured left), his friend Farhad Mahmud and new
girlfriend Emma Smith all deny three counts of murder and two of
The prosecution claims the two men,
egged on by Smith, used a plastic can and a garden sprayer to pump
up to seven litres of petrol through the letterbox and set it
Amanda and her son Bohdan, who broke
both feet when he leaped from his window, relived the terrifying
ordeal this morning at Maidstone Crown Court.
Mrs Crook said: "I woke up and there
was pink flames above my head, shocking pink, actually in the
"I got out of bed and I ran round the
bed to try and get through the hall to the children.
"Our bedroom door was always open. The
whole of the hall was just a mass of flames.
"As I came to the bedroom door you
couldn’t come past, it was there, the whole of the ceiling, the
whole of the hall, I couldn’t get through the flames to get to
their doors. You could not have come out through those doors at
"I ran round the bed, I woke Mark up.
He jumped out the bed and straight at the door screaming for the
kids to try and get out.
"Mark woke up, he said ‘What’s going
on’, I said ‘I don’t know, the house is on fire, we need to get
out, we need to get out, I can’t get to the kids.’
"I said ‘Get out, get out, we can get
the kids through the front.’
"I managed to get through the window
and onto the flat roof and was screaming for somebody to come and
get us down to get the children.
"Mark, because he was quite a big
chap, got stuck in the window. It was too small a window for Mark
to get out. I stood and watched him burn. I stood and watched the
window melt around him and it was only when the window melted that
he could get through.
"As Mark got through the window there
was a fireball that blew the window out and that just engulfed him
and I was screaming for somebody just come and get the children
"Time stopped and stood still. I don’t
know how long that was."
Mark Crook (left), his
daughter Melissa and her toddler son Noah (right) were killed
in a house fire in Chatham
A neighbour called Joseph, who lived
two doors down, heard the screams, fetched a ladder and helped the
couple down from the flat roof.
Mrs Crook said: "I threw myself at the
ladder and literally slid down the ladder. The next thing I
remember banging on the patio doors, just ‘let me get to the kids,
let me get to the kids, let me get to the kids.’
"I remember as I did that there was a
fireman coming through the house with a torch. I was swearing ‘open
the f***ing door, I need to get to the kids, I need to get to the
"When I got out the front I distinctly
remember looking up the road and down the road and saw Bohdan on
next-door’s drive, and I knew they [Melissa and Noah] hadn’t made
it. They could not survive that fire.
"The heat was awful, the noise was
awful. The heat was incredible. I could hear my hair burning, I
could hear my hair singeing. The smell was awful. As you breathed
in you could feel it burning.
"I couldn’t understand how anybody
could have done that, ever."
Mark died of his injuries six days
later in the burns unit at East Grinstead Hospital.
Floral tributes outside
the blaze house in Chatham Hill
Bohdan, who also gave evidence today,
told how he broke his right heel and three bones in his left foot
when he jumped from a window to escape the fire – and battled in
vain to save his sister and baby nephew.
The court also heard today conflicting
stories about Muhammadi, who Melissa met aged 14 but left on March
31 last year with her and Noah’s clothes in black sacks after he
He admitted his guilt to the police,
but Bohdan Crook said he was "controlling" and added: "Melissa
would do as she was told. If he said make me a cheese sandwich, she
would get up and do it. If he said make me a tea, she would get up
and do it. It was kind of like my sister was a slave, that’s how I
Muhammadi had spent Christmas 2008 and
2009 with the Crook family, where he was withdrawn, but stayed
alone in Coventry in 2010.
Bohdan Crook claimed Muhammadi, who the whole Crook
family called Sam, showed a glint of violence when the pair were
drinking in the couple’s home in Coventry.
He said: "We went out the front for a
cigarette and Sam offered me £3,500 to throw acid in someone’s face
Yet Amanda Crook said that apart from
a few vicious arguments, Muhammadi remained in close contact with
the family and had never threatened his baby son.
She added: "He called me mum."
The court heard Muhammadi, who wept in
the dock when shown pictures of his son, had gone with Melissa,
Noah and members of his family on a happy trip to a zoo or park in
London just three days before the fire.
He drove Melissa back to Chatham and
she was in high spirits.
Alan Kent QC, defending, asked Amanda
Crook: "There was nothing to indicate that there was any flaw?"
She replied: "There were flaws, but
nothing that set alarm bells ringing."
She added: "I think there was a part
of her that still loved him. He was the father of her child."
Muhammadi, 24, of Britannia Street,
Coventry; Mahmud, 35, of Fernhill Road, Maidstone; and Smith, 21,
of Barley Lea, Coventry, are each charged with three counts of
The trio are also charged with
attempting to murder Amanda and Bohdan.
They deny all the charges and the
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