A neighbour who killed a mother and her two daughters by setting fire to their home has been found guilty of their murders.
Jamie Barrow set fire to the front door of the property in Fairisle Close, Clifton, while the family slept.
Fatoumatta Hydara, 28, died two days after the fire, while Fatimah, three, and Naeemah, one, were pronounced dead shortly after the blaze, with all three succumbing to smoke inhalation.
Barrow, who lived in the same block of flats, lit the fire after filling a bottle with petrol from his motorbike and pouring it through his victims’ letterbox before lighting it with tissue paper.
At Nottingham Crown Court, he admitted starting the fire but denied triple murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He also told jurors he did not know the family were inside the first-floor flat when he used petrol to set fire to the property.
Following a three-week trial, a jury today (4 July 2023) found Barrow guilty on three counts of murder and one count of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
The 31-year-old will be sentenced on Friday (7 July 2023).
The trial heard emergency services were called shortly after 3.17am on Sunday, 20 November 2022 after neighbours heard shouting and saw smoke.
The family was rushed to Queen’s Medical Centre, where Fatimah and Naeemah were pronounced dead. Mrs Hydara died two days later.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, grieving husband Aboubacarr Drammeh revealed his wife and their two daughters had been planning to join him in America, where he was working as a biomedical technologist.
But that dream was cruelly ended by the fire.
Detectives launched a murder inquiry after an investigation quickly established the blaze had been started deliberately.
One witness described seeing something on fire in the letter box of a front door that leads up to the family’s flat. He tried kicking the door down to help the family but was kept back by the flames.
A subsequent fire investigation confirmed the cause as arson after tests found petrol had been poured through the letter box and set alight. The fire was contained to the bottom of the stairs but smoke had billowed up into the rest of the property.
As part of the early stages of the investigation, officers obtained witness accounts from neighbours who had been evacuated due to the fire.
They included Barrow, who arranged on the phone to meet officers at his aunt’s address – however he wasn’t there at the time they’d agreed.
The officers then found him back at his own address, where Barrow told them: “I need to tell you something about the fire next door.”
He then bowed his head and held both of his hands in front of him, which the officers interpreted as an invitation to handcuff him.
After being cautioned, he said words to the effect of, “I was going to hand myself in at Clifton Police Station anyway today”. He was then arrested on suspicion of murder.
During his police interviews, Barrow refused to comment – and detectives left no stone unturned when searching for the evidence that would enable charges to be brought against him.
Following extensive CCTV and forensic enquiries, Barrow – who was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) in 2013 – was charged with three counts of murder.
During the trial, jurors were shown CCTV footage of Barrow buying packs of lager on two separate occasions in the hours leading up to the fatal fire.
As the flames took hold, he was captured calmly walking away from the blaze with his dog whilst smoking a cigarette.
A short time later he returned and spoke to officers, asking how “bad” the fire was.
He then went to an evacuation centre at Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton campus, where he spent time with other evacuated residents who were unaware of his involvement in the fatal fire.
Following his arrest later the same day, Nottinghamshire Police recorded the incident as a hate incident. In court, prosecutors said Barrow’s motive may never be known but suggested a number of theories for why he started the fire, including his desire to be rehoused by local authorities in order to be closer to his son.
Jurors also heard he may have been frustrated at living next to young children who could create a lot of “noise”, as well as at the amount of rubbish the family generated at the property.
After hearing all the evidence, the jury concluded Barrow’s actions amounted to triple murder.
Following the verdicts, Detective Chief Inspector Clare Dean, of Nottinghamshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “This is a tragic case in which a caring and compassionate mother and two young children were taken away in the cruellest way imaginable.
“The loss of Fatoumatta, Fatimah and Naeemah was utterly senseless and, as a result, their family have experienced pain and distress which cannot be adequately described or even imagined.
“Our thoughts remain with them at this incredibly painful time, as well as the communities that have been affected by this most tragic of incidents.
“The fire took away a loving husband’s wife and children, whose dreams of a happy future together in the USA were snatched away by Jamie Barrow’s barbaric actions. He is a cruel and dangerous man and I am pleased justice has been served.
“I’d like to thank everyone who worked on this case to build the evidence against Barrow and also the public for their co-operation and understanding while we made inquiries in the area as part of the investigation.”
Detective Inspector Kaz Smithson, who led the investigation, said she was pleased with today’s verdicts.
She said: “Jamie Barrow committed the most despicable crime anyone could ever commit. He destroyed a whole family and took away their dreams of a happy life together in America.
“Today, justice has been served for Fatoumatta, Fatimah and Naeemah and their family, all of whom have carried themselves with incredible dignity since the night of this truly awful crime.
“Barrow denied the killings were deliberate but, thankfully, my investigative team was able to provide overwhelming evidence that this tragic event was indeed murder.
“We saw through his lies and, thankfully, so did the jury.
“Barrow knew Fatoumatta and the children were inside the property when he set fire to it and that they’d have no chance of surviving.
“It beggars belief. In my opinion Barrow is an extremely dangerous man and I am pleased he is no longer walking the streets.
“Finally, I want to thank the family for the dignity and incredible strength that they shown during the trial and hope they can draw some comfort from today’s verdicts.”
Chief Inspector Karl Thomas, the local neighbourhood commander at the time of the fire, said he hoped the verdicts would also bring a degree of comfort to members of the local community.
“This was an horrendous crime that broke a family and had an immense impact not just in Clifton but the wider community.
“Personally I’ve found it very upsetting and I remain very perplexed by the needless loss of life of a kind and compassionate mother and two innocent young children.
“After this tragedy, we saw how the local community came together to support each other and the family through the most painful of times. This included the Ahmadi Muslim community, the Gambian community, local neighbours and other well-wishers – and I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who came together and showed their support to Fatoumatta’s husband and wider family.
“The outpouring of support shows what a great community there is in Clifton and I know this has helped the family enormously.
“I acknowledge there are many members of the community who believe these murders were a hate crime. It’s important to say that, following a very detailed and thorough investigation by a large team of detectives, the investigation team left no stone unturned to investigate the circumstances and presented the evidence to the jury to reach these verdicts.
“Incidents of this type are very concerning and highlight why Nottinghamshire Police will continue to work hard, with the support of partner agencies and, importantly, the community to tackle and prevent all forms of crime.”
Dr Irfan Malik, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Nottinghamshire, which supported the family of Mrs Hydara and her children following the fire, said: “The tragic events of 20th November 2022 sadly led to the premature deaths of three innocent victims, Fatoumatta Hydara and her young daughters Fatima and Naeemah.
“They were a very pious and highly respected family. Their traumatic loss has left a huge void for her husband, family and members of our Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
“Nothing will bring them back, however the verdict brings us some solace, that justice has been served.
“Our thoughts, prayers and support are with the family, friends and our faith community.”