Boy 'killed' brother in revenge arson attack over Xbox

Last updated at 11:31 13 June 2007

A schoolboy killed his brother in a revenge arson attack after his Xbox was taken away, a jury has been told.

The 14-year-old set fire to the family home just a few weeks after being grounded for stealing £5,000 from his eldest brother who had entrusted him with his bank cash card.

When the extent of the theft was discovered, the boy's 24-year-old brother was furious, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

The 14-year-old apologised and said he would repay his brother's missing life savings when he got a job.

His mother told a jury: "His eldest brother said he would start by selling my son's X-box. He was going to sell it to get some money back."

Asked by prosecutor Rodney Jameson QC how the 14-year-old reacted to being grounded after the theft she replied: "He didn't like that."

The court heard the boy harboured a grudge and told friends he was going to kill his mother; talking about his family he said he wanted to "burn the house down with all of them in it."

He had developed a "cocktail of grievances" after his mother tried to discipline him for the theft for which he received a caution from the police.

The 14-year-old spent the cash on cigarettes, trainers, clothes, fireworks, petrol for a friend's motorbike and his mobile phone was always well in credit.

Mr Jameson said: "He offered money to anyone who took his fancy. Some thought he was trying to buy himself status at school."

The theft victim was the quietest of four brothers. He rarely went out and worked long hours at McDonald's to build up savings so he could get his own place and go to college.

When he found out how much had been stolen from his bank account he was "mad" and went looking for his brother.

Jurors were told that as the 14-year-old's behaviour deteriorated, he was ticked off by a council anti-social behaviour team after he was found smoking cannabis in a shed with some other boys.

The boy threatened to leave home and move in with a friend. He told his mother: "If I had a gun I would shoot you."

He began starting fires in the neighbourhood and told a girl he wanted to kill his mother. She told police: "He said he was fed up because she was selling his stuff to repay his brother."

It is alleged the teenager poured white spirit in the hallway of the family's semi and threw a lighted match through the letter box before leaving.

Six people were trapped inside as the house in Wombwell, South Yorkshire, became an inferno.

The boy's 15-year-old brother died from smoke inhalation in the bunk bed where he was sleeping on November 3 last year.

He always slept curled up underneath the bedclothes and on this occasion had his headphones on. "It may have prevented him from hearing the shouts of the others," said Mr Jameson.

His mother, 44, two older brothers, younger sister, and a pregnant girlfriend of one of the brothers escaped by jumping out of first-floor windows.

The mother suffered serious burns and needed skin grafts during months of hospital treatment. The second eldest brother broke both his ankles so badly he may never make a full recovery and the other brother broke his nose and wrist.

Jurors were told that his mother and father separated just over a year previously after 24 years of marriage. The 14-year-old took it "very badly" and his mother was unable to control him.

He claims he did not set the fire. He initially told police he helped a pal with his paper round and returned to find the house ablaze then changed his story to say he stole the cash to repay a drug debt.

Mr Jameson said both accounts were lies.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies murdering his brother and five offences of arson with intent to endanger the lives of the five people who were trapped in the house.

The trial, which is expected to last six weeks, continues.

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