Arsonist who murdered mother-of-five, 31, and father, 24, by trapping them in a house fire during a drug-fuelled sex party is jailed for life
- Craig Collier jailed for life for murdering Samantha Mills and Reece Schofield
- He was told he must serve a minimum of 30 years at Leeds Crown Court today
- Was also handed total of 13 years concurrent sentences for charges of arson with intent to endanger life, and to pervert the course of justice
An ‘truly wicked’ arsonist who murdered a mother-of-five and a young father in a house blaze has been jailed for life.
Craig Collier, 35, killed Samantha Mills, 31, and Reece Schofield, 24, when he started three fires in a disused house where men and women were known gather to take drugs and have sex.
Collier, of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, was told he must serve a minimum term of 30 years for the murders at sentencing at Leeds Crown Court on Thursday.
He was also handed a total of 13 years in concurrent sentences for charges of arson with intent to endanger life, and to pervert the course of justice in relation to the incident in Clare Hill in Huddersfield in March, this year.
Collier (pictured), of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, was told he must serve a minimum term of 30 years for the murders at sentencing at Leeds Crown Court on Thursday
Reece and Samantha were killed and and four others had to be rescued after they became trapped on the top floor of the empty home.
Both died from smoke inhalation and a second woman had to be treated in intensive care after two mattresses and a chair were ‘deliberately’ set in fire inside the property.
After sentencing, Samantha’s brother and mother said in a statement: ‘Sammy was only 31 years old. She had so much to look forward to in her life.
‘Due to the actions of another person she will never get to watch her five children grow up, see them finish school/college and start their own families and she will never get that dream wedding she always wished for.
‘I have had to watch my family fall apart for nine months and it’s been absolutely horrendous to see. Life just isn’t the same for us and I don’t think it ever will be.
‘Losing Sammy has had a huge impact on all of us. All we have now is photographs and memories.
Reece and Samantha (pictured) were killed and and four others had to be rescued after they became trapped on the top floor of the empty home
‘We know we’re not the only victims of this crime. There are other families suffering too and we feel for every other person affected by this. No family should ever have to go through something like this.
‘On behalf of myself and my family we would like to thank the police who have supported the family through this awful time.
‘We would also like to thank the fire service and ambulance service for their brave and heroic actions on that tragic morning.
Reece’s mother, said there were ‘no words strong enough’ to describe the pain her and her family were feeling.
She added: ‘I am utterly devastated by the loss of my son in such horrendous circumstances.
‘I am haunted by his frightened, panicked voice during the 999 call he made.
‘The thought of him being scared in his final moments is absolutely heart breaking and I lie awake hearing it every night.
‘I never got to say goodbye, that chance was cruelly taken away from me. I never got to cuddle him one last time or tell him how much I loved him.
Three of those partygoers managed to escape through the skylight of the property, but three others, including Samantha and Reece (pictured), were unable to do so
Reece leaves behind a three-year old daughter, Ayla, who his family said he adored.
His mother added: ‘Ayla will never get to know her dad properly and will suffer the emotional grief when she is old enough to understand the cruel way her dad was taken from her.
‘Craig Collier is a truly wicked man. He has shown no remorse, nor has he explained why he did this.’
Detective Chief Inspector Sharron Kaye, who led the investigation, said: ‘I would like to thank my team for their efforts and hard work in bringing Collier to justice.
‘Our sympathies remain with the families of Reece and Samantha, as well as the four people who survived the incident, and I hope that today’s outcome will give them some comfort at this very difficult time.’
The property in Clare Hill was unoccupied at the time but had previously been used by the homeless as a venue for ‘drug taking and drinking’.
Pictured: A police presence is seen outside the scene in Huddersfield in March
Prosecutor Peter Moulson QC told jurors that at around 5.30am on March 23, six people were on the upper floor of the house engaged in ‘drug taking and consensual intimate activity’ when they became trapped on the top floor by the fire.
Three of those partygoers managed to escape through the skylight of the property, but three others, including Samantha and Reece, were unable to do so.
Another woman was rescued by firefighters and taken to intensive care where she later recovered.
He added that Collier was not engaged in either the drug taking or sex activity and returned to his room at the Cambridge Hotel, opposite the burning house, after the setting three fires.
Mr Moulson said: ‘A mattress we say was set on fire by the defendant.
‘We contend he then moved to the floor below that floor on the ground floor where he set fire to a further mattress in a room on that floor.
‘Then while on that same floor he moved a chair to behind the front door and set fire to that before leaving through that door and going to his room at the Cambridge Hotel.
‘As a result of those three fires in the positions below where those other six were, they had no option other than to attempt to escape through a skylight or attic window.’
Fire crews attended and three of those people, including Ms Mills, Mr Schofield and another woman, did not make it to the temporary safety of the roof.
Mr Moulson told jurors: ‘All of them were rescued at the time alive from within that attic bedroom as a result of the bravery of the attending fire crews.
‘Samantha Mills and Reece Schofield, despite the best efforts of those concerned with their rescue and subsequent medical treatment, ultimately died respectively on the 26 and 29 March.
‘The third person rescued was admitted to intensive care and ultimately recovered from the effects of the fire upon her.’
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