Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Brothers guilty over fatal fire

Jessica Beech and Darren Asher
Jessica Beech and Darren Asher died in the fire

Two brothers from Stoke-on-Trent have been found guilty of starting a fire in which two people died.

Jessica Beech and Darren Asher, both 26, died in the blaze in July last year at the former Hamilton Reid factory in Black Horse Lane, Hanley.

The brothers, aged 14 and 19, were also found guilty of arson following a trial which lasted for more than three weeks.

The pair will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court at a date which will be set later.

When the fire broke out on 4 July, fire crews feared more bodies would be found as the building was known to have been used by rough sleepers.


Investigators found the fire had started after old chairs and rubbish were put in a caged area in the factory building, doused with paint and set alight.

A 40-year-old man was rescued from an upstairs room after he collapsed due to the effects of smoke.

Although Darren's life was often turbulent, he knew without doubt how much he was loved
Darren Asher's family

Ms Beech and Mr Asher's cause of death was given as carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is thought the pair had been in a relationship for three months before they died.

Ms Beech's mother, Yvonne Essex, said she rarely went into Hanley any more.

"I cannot face visiting the town centre where we used to meet up with Jessica," she said.

Mr Asher's family thanked fire crews and police and friends of the pair who had helped with the trial.

"Although Darren's life was often turbulent, he knew without doubt how much he was loved by his family," they said in a statement.

The case lead to concerns being raised about homeless people in the community.

As a result, a mobile police station was put in the area for people to talk to police and to be put in touch with Brighter Futures, a homeless support agency.

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