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Simon Childs of Hurricane Road in Kings Hill takes to the stand in murder trial

The pest controller accused of torching the family home and killing his mother-in-law today told a jury: "I did not start the fire. I still loved my wife."

The prosecution has alleged the 52-year-old began the blaze after his marriage had ended in bitter arguments.

He said: "I was very gutted and I responded badly. I started drinking alcohol. I didn't talk to no-one and kept myself to myself."

Simon Childs denies murdering his mother-in-law Jackie Allen
Simon Childs denies murdering his mother-in-law Jackie Allen

Bearded Simon Childs, of Hurricane Road, Kings Hill 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.

Childs, who has denied murder, attempted murder and arson with intent, said his mother -in-law Jackie Allen had stopped talking to him years earlier but said he "wouldn't do anything to hurt her."

Footage from the scene of the fire

The 65-year-old died in her daughter's home in Spitfire Road, West Malling, after becoming trapped by the smoke. Another person managed to jump to safety.

He 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.

House fire at Spitfire Road, West Malling.Picture: Matthew Walker (6117540)
House fire at Spitfire Road, West Malling.Picture: Matthew Walker (6117540)

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.

"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.

Grandmother Jackie Allen, 65, died in a house fire in West Malling (6117495)
Grandmother Jackie Allen, 65, died in a house fire in West Malling (6117495)

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 si(te) said you have been there all night."

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.

The scene of the fire at West Malling (5499294)
The scene of the fire at West Malling (5499294)

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.” The trial continues.

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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.

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