Page last updated at 18:19 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Man guilty of murdering toddler in arson revenge attack

Graham Heaps
Heaps showed no emotion as he was convicted

A man who killed a three-year-old girl by setting fire to her family home in a revenge attack has been convicted of murder.

Francesca Bimpson was unable to escape the flames and suffered massive burns, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Graham Heaps, 44, started the fire because he was bitter at the break-up of his relationship with her aunt.

Heaps, of Woodside Terrace, Crumlin, south Wales, had denied murder. He will be sentenced on Tuesday.

Heaps poured petrol though the letterbox of the house in the Everton area of the city just before Christmas 2008.

The whole family are just absolutely ecstatic that he's been found guilty
Nicola Skelhorne, Francesca's aunt

Francesca was unable to escape the ensuing fire and suffered 85% burns. She died three weeks later in hospital.

The jury of seven men and five women took two-and-a-half hours to reach their unanimous guilty verdict.

The verdict was greeted by cheers and, as Heaps was sent down, Francesca's mother, Eleanor Skelhorne, became distraught.

She shouted at him: "That's wiped the smile off your face, hasn't it?"

Speaking after the hearing, Francesca's aunt, Nicola Skelhorne, said the family were pleased with the conviction.

"The whole family are just absolutely ecstatic that he's been found guilty," she told BBC Radio Merseyside.

Francesca Bimpson
Francesca suffered severe burns and died three weeks later

"Hopefully we can get on with our lives now and put Francesca to rest."

Asked about Heaps' reaction to the verdict, Ms Skelhorne added: "He didn't make any gesture, he just stood looking at the judge. Nothing, no remorse from him whatsoever - it's just unbelievable."

Francesca, her mother and father, Kieron Bimpson, both 37, and their three other children, Anne-Marie, then 17 months, Christina, eight, and 14-year-old Kieron, had all been asleep during the attack.

Mr Bimpson leapt out of the house first so he could catch the children when they jumped.

But Christina, who shared a bedroom with her sister, was not strong enough to lift Francesca to the window, the court heard.

Family harassed

Brian Cummings QC, prosecuting, said fire crews arrived at the house as Ms Skelhorne was screaming from the street: "Get my baby out. My baby is inside."

Firefighters found her lying on her bed, limp and breathing only faintly.

"It was always likely that she would die and she did so three weeks later," said Mr Cummings.

The jury was told that Heaps harboured ill feelings towards the family because of the break-up of his relationship.

Mr Cummings told them: "He intended to kill one or another member of the household or cause them serious injury."

Heaps had claimed he was passing the house in Norwood Grove at the time of the fire, and made an attempt to get inside to help rescue Francesca.

But his legs were engulfed in flames as he stepped close to the door because his clothes were covered in petrol.

Police later discovered his history of harassing the family and, in particular, Eleanor Skelhorne, who received abusive and obscene text messages and phone calls from Heaps in the months before the attack.

The court was told that Mr Bimpson and his teenage son became aware of the abuse and had approached Heaps on her behalf.

Heaps, who moved away from the city after the attack, was charged by Merseyside Police six months later.



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Galloway Gazette Arsonist branded as 'coward' by murdered girl's father - 22 mins ago
Ormskirk and Skelmersdale Advertiser Girl's arson killer jailed for life - 23 mins ago
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The Independent Father hits out as toddler's arson killer gets 28 years - 48 mins ago



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