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Jury retires in West Malling fire murder trial

By Paul Hooper

The jury has retired to consider its verdict in the case of a pest controller accused of deliberately torching the family home and killing his mother-in-law.

Simon Childs, of Hurricane Road, Kings Hill, allegedly began the blaze in Spitfire Road in West Malling after his marriage had ended in bitter arguments.

His wife's mother Jackie Allen, 65, died in the fire after becoming trapped by the smoke. Another person managed to jump to safety.

Simon Childs is a pest controller
Simon Childs is a pest controller

Yet Childs said although she had stopped talking to him years earlier he "wouldn't do anything to hurt her".

The trial, which has lasted nearly three weeks, has seen Childs branded a sex pest by his estranged wife Mandy, who gave evidence from behind screens in the witness box at Maidstone Crown Court.

She claimed that her 16-year marriage came to an end shortly before the blaze in November last year and Childs was living at a house nearby.

Mrs Childs said he kept two Harris Hawks in aviaries behind the semi-detached house, which were used in his work as a pest controller.

She alleged that Childs and her mother-in-law “never liked each other” and she rarely visited when he was living at the property.

She alleged that in October last year she had gone to bed and Childs arrived and began performing a sex act on himself.

Grandmother Jackie Allen, 65, died in the house fire in West Malling
Grandmother Jackie Allen, 65, died in the house fire in West Malling

“I just got up and went downstairs and he followed me downstairs and slapped me around the back of the head . I was absolutely shocked. It really hurt.”

She alleged she then took the car keys and left the house and was later told by Childs that he had stabbed himself although at that time she didn’t believe him.

Mrs Childs added that her husband and her mother “didn’t have a relationship... because they didn’t like each other".

She also revealed that on another occasion “after he kept collapsing” she drove him to Maidstone Hospital but “he kept on behaving horribly to me”.

Childs, who has denied murder, attempted murder and arson with intent, said that by October last year "the state of my marriage was it had ended."

The following month he took an overdose and was taken to hospital.

He said: "I just wanted to die. I just had enough of life."

He told the jury at Maidstone Crown Court that he began to have suspicions about his wife Amanda and a relative of his, Rory Clarke.

Footage taken of the scene of the fire

Childs allegedly breached his curfew on the night he allegedly started the death blaze.

He had been ordered to remain at his mother’s home where he was living after assaulting his estranged wife, Mandy.

But Prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC claimed that CCTV captured his image near his estranged wife’s home at the time the fire began.

Childs claimed that in the 10 minutes the prosecution claim he wasn't at his nearby home, he was there.

He claimed he was smoking a cannabis joint sitting in his van parked nearby.

Childs admitted telling others he was "going to burn the house" but claimed he had no intention of carrying out his threats

He revealed that when he was 19-years-old he was convicted after arming himself with a rolling pin and fighting squaddies.

Childs, who was giving evidence dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, married Amanda in July 2002. He has three children from a previous relationship.

In the days prior to the fire he admitted he had assaulted Amanda after an argument over their marriage problems.

He said: "I am ashamed about what happened. I had never touched her before but she was in my face and I just pushed her away. I threw a plastic Ribena bottle towards her.

The scene of the house fire in Spitfire Road, West Malling, where Jackie Allen died. Picture: Matthew Walker
The scene of the house fire in Spitfire Road, West Malling, where Jackie Allen died. Picture: Matthew Walker

"It was in temper and I shouldn't have done it. It was stupid of me."

He was later questioned by police and given bail on condition he didn't contact her.

But on October 25, he admitted going to the house in Spitfire Road and put a ladder against a wall.

He said: "I was in a bad state. My head was up and down but I just wanted to talk with her."

On October 31 he returned to the house to collect tools from his shed even though he was banned from being there.

A few days later he drove to Eastbourne in search of a caravan belonging to Mr Clarke because he believed his wife was staying there.

He then sent a message: "You have been there all night. I have photos of proof. The lady on the site said you have been there all night."

The scene of the house fire in Spitfire Road, West Malling, where Jackie Allen died. Picture: Matthew Walker
The scene of the house fire in Spitfire Road, West Malling, where Jackie Allen died. Picture: Matthew Walker

After a confrontation with Mr Clarke, Childs left the area and later appeared in court where he received a restraining order for the earlier assault.

He then sent text messages demanding his TV be returned.

He added:"I was feeling hurt and I just wanted to spite Mandy. Now I feel sick. I shouldn't have done it."

Childs admitted using two other phones to send threatening and sexual message to his estranged wife.

His barrister Ian Henderson asked: “Did you leave your home and go to Spitfire Way and start a fire there using petrol?”

Childs replied: “No.”

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

For information on how we can report on court proceedings, click here.

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