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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 16:11 GMT
Teenager killed sisters in blaze
Tatum and Demi-Jade Spence
Tatum and Demi-Jade Spence died from smoke inhalation and burns
A teenager has been found guilty of killing his two sisters in an arson attack in South Tyneside.

Shane Spence had denied starting a fire at the family home in South Shields last April, which killed Tatum Leah, 14, and Demi-Jade, 12.

The 18-year-old was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter and one count of arson at Newcastle Crown Court.

He was cleared of the attempted murder of his parents, John and Anita, both 37, who escaped the fire.

During the three-week trial, the prosecution alleged that Spence, who did not live at the house, crept into the ex-council property on Lisle Road early on 4 April after telling a friend he was popping back to pick up a CD.

He then doused the living room sofa in petrol and set it alight before returning to the friend's house to watch a film, the court heard.

'Already dead'

The jury was told how Mrs Spence shouted and screamed to wake her husband and daughters, and believed her elder daughter was beside her on the landing, while Demi-Jade was asleep in the loft.

She opened a window in an empty bedroom and called for help, but the room filled with thick smoke and she jumped out in order to raise the alarm.

Alistair MacDonald QC, prosecuting, said: "The parents Anita and John managed to escape from the house, albeit that John Spence suffered terrible burns as a result of his attempts to rescue his daughters from the fire.

Shane Spence
Spence had attempted suicide a few days before the fire

"However, tragically, both the efforts of John Spence and the fire brigade when they arrived were in vain.

"The girls were already dead when firemen wearing breathing apparatus reached them."

They died in their bedrooms of smoke inhalation and burns, a post-mortem examination found.

The jury heard how Spence had attempted suicide a few days earlier after an argument in which he pushed his girlfriend, the mother of his child.

He had also recently given up his job, which Mr MacDonald said was much to his father's "disgust".

A charred petrol can was found by investigators in the lounge of the family's home.

The jury reached a majority verdict after more than 10 hours of deliberation.

Sentencing has been delayed for pre-sentence and psychiatric reports.

The Spence family home after the fire


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