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17:48, 4 Mar 2015 Updated 21:24, 4 Mar 2015
By Lucy Thornton
Darren Sykes, 44, tempted Paul, nine, and Jack, 12, with a new model railway before starting the blaze which killed them all.
A little boy who tried desperately to escape an inferno started deliberately by his father said “my dad did it on purpose” before he died, an inquest has heard.
Darren Sykes, 44, lured his children to their deaths with the promise of a model railway and some fun-sized chocolate bars.
The “cold and planned affair” led to the deaths of Mr Sykes and his two children, Jack, 12 and Paul, nine.
An inquest heard how the carpet salesman set his home ablaze in 16 places in October last year by using four plastic petrol cans.
He barricaded his home so the boys could not get out then shut all three of them in the attic.
Distraught: A coroner told mum Claire not to blame herself over the boys’ deaths
As the flames took hold, they were all together in the attic, which had been turned into a playroom surrounded by a £600 new modern railway track with carriages that lit up.
A coroner was told how Jack then made a “valiant” effort to escape the “catastrophic” fire but suffered 50 per cent burns to his head,chest and upper limbs.
He was found by fire fighters still conscious at the foot of the loft ladder.
His brother, Paul, and his father were discovered in the attic unconscious and pronounced dead after inhaling gases caused by the fire.
Jack was taken to hospital where he told a police officer: “It was my dad that started the fire.” Dave Higgens/PA Wire
Cruel: Mr Sykes’ barricaded to boys in to ensure they died in the blaze
He then later told a consultant it was deliberate.
Five days later he died of his burns.
After the hearing their grief-stricken mum, Claire Throssell, 42, told how she blamed herself for their deaths.
“I wasn’t there when they really needed me,” she said. “All I could do was hold them in my arms when they died.”
But the inquest had heard how her former husband was “obsessed” with the boys.
His boss Andre Spencer said his employee was difficult to manage and had anger management issues.
In his statement he told how they had chatted on the phone just a few hours before the fire and he appeared “down.”.
Detective Sergeant Stuart Hall said: “He spent the conversation trying to raise his spirits.
“There was certainly no hint of the scale of what was to come. He was concerned about his state-of-mind but certainly didn’t expect anything like this to happen.”
Mr Sykes told his boss a recent meeting with CAFCASS, which represents children in family courts, was a “waste of time” as they focused on the “negative” and didn’t listen to his agenda.
He branded his access arrangements “barbaric” and was under the wrong impression he would see
Trouble: Mr Sykes had been seen his GP for depression before the tragedy
The inquest heard that Mr Sykes from Sheffield, who had been to his GP for depression, said he felt “the world was against him.”
But CAFCASS denied this was the case and said he was given various access options and it would be up to the courts what he was allowed.
The coroner heard social services first became involved when Paul’s primary school made a referral.
Paul was crying and told how he didn’t want to go to his dad’s that night.
Both boys complained of being “emotionally blackmailed” by their father and their mum said she felt “bullied” into giving Mr Sykes more contact.
The children also said they had not enjoyed a recent skiing trip with their father who had grabbed Paul around the throat.
The inquest heard how Mr Sykes passed off his behaviour as fun but others “perceived it as more sinister.”
Paul also described mealtimes as a “battle ground” with dad “wanted him to eat more and everything he didn’t want to.”
The inquest heard Mr Sykes said if they didn’t want to see him “What’s the point of going on living.
On the day of the fire CAFCASS called their mum to arrange to see Jack.
The court advisor also asked her to report back on the boys’ moods when they returned from their dad’s.
At this Claire wept and said the call made her want to stop the visit: “I blame myself for letting them go.”
Sheffield coroner Chris Dorries told the distraught mum: “Your loss deeply affects me.
“Madam, you have nothing to blame yourself about. I’ve sat here a long time and listened to many cases and I want to say to you, you have nothing to blame yourself for. Put that thought aside.”
The Sheffield coroner recorded a verdict on Monday that Mr Sykes committed suicide.
Today, Mr Dorries said: “This was a coldly planned affair with the specific purpose of ending two young lives.
“It is abundantly clear to me that the fire was started deliberately.
“Indeed the whole event was carefully planned by Mr Sykes
“I find that both Jack and Paul Sykes were unlawfully killed.
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Barnsley Safeguarding Children Board Serious Case Review Concerning P children Overview Report (excerpt)
25 August 2015
Page 25 of 44:
6.5.1 IAPT is an NHS programme which is being rolled out nationally. It offers services for treating people with depression and anxiety disorders. Within Barnsley the IAPT programme is provided by SWYPFT. Individuals can self refer to the service and can also be referred by their GP. When a referral is deemed to be non-urgent it is routine practice for the GP to give the patient a number to self refer. [Darren Sykes] visited the GP on 4 July 2014 and reported that he had left his wife “a couple of months ago” and had not seen his children for 18 days. He reported low mood and added that he had recently had thoughts of harming himself but he no longer had any suicidal thoughts and would never do it. The GP prescribed anti-depressants and gave FP the number of IAPT to refer himself, which he did. FP was given an appointment for 8 August 2014 but he did not attend.