Friday 14 June 2024
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Woman who killed mother-in-law by setting fire to bed jailed for 32 years minimum

A woman who murdered her disabled mother-in-law by setting fire to her bed has received a life sentence.

Elizabeth Vamplew, 77, died from burns and smoke inhalation after a fire at her bungalow in Eton Court, Newark, on 15 December 2021.

Her daughter-in-law, Karen Vamplew, had deliberately set fire to her bed as she was lying in it, almost certainly asleep.

Prosecutors said it was a “catastrophic” fire that claimed the life of a vulnerable person who had been suffering from poor health and had very limited mobility.

Vamplew, also known as Karen Degg, was found guilty of murder on Friday (17 May) following a trial at Leicester Crown Court.

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The trial heard that the 44-year-old had considerable debts, and that the crime was carried out in a bid to obtain inheritance money.

Financial investigations revealed she had access to her victim’s account, and had been spending thousands of pounds on herself and her family.

The day before the fire – by which time the account was substantially depleted – Elizabeth’s bank had put a block on any substantial use of her cash card by limiting transactions to just £5.

This led to Karen accompanying Elizabeth, known to her family as Anne, to the bank that same morning in an apparent attempt to get the block removed.

Prosecutor Peter Joyce KC said: “The ready source of cash for the defendant had ceased and she [the victim] was no longer of use to the defendant; only a burden.

“The defendant did however know that under the terms of the deceased’s will the defendant’s husband stood to inherit half his mother’s estate. The will was later found at her home.”

Karen had initially been arrested on suspicion of murder two days after the fire but at that stage there was insufficient evidence to bring any charges against her.

She was rearrested on 27 September last year after further specialist evidence was examined and secured.

The court heard Elizabeth was known to smoke inside her property and that it was believed a dropped cigarette could have caused the fire.

However, subsequent experiments found the fire could not have been started by discarded smoking materials but could only have been started by direct application of a naked flame at the bottom of the bed.

A detailed look at Karen’s movements before the fire provided further damning evidence – detailing suspicious movements to and from the address.

After weeks of listening to the evidence, the jury found her guilty on a single count of murder.

Vamplew, formerly of King Street, Newark, was sentenced today (Monday) and given a life sentence. She will have to serve a minimum of 32 years before she is considered for parole.

Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Clare Dean, who oversaw the investigation, said:

“This is a very sad and tragic case and I am pleased the jury saw through Karen Vamplew’s lies and found her guilty of murder after careful deliberation.

“This has been a lengthy and complex investigation and I would like to praise the dedicated work carried out by the investigation team and external specialists to bring Vamplew to justice.

“Throughout this investigation Vamplew maintained that she was not responsible for the death of her own mother-in-law.

“The simple fact is that she deliberately set a catastrophic and fatal fire knowing full well that Elizabeth was asleep inside the property. It was a brutal and premeditated act borne out of wickedness and greed.

“Today’s sentence brings to an end a long legal ordeal for Elizabeth’s family, but I am acutely aware that it will never ease the pain they feel every day at this terrible loss. I would like to thank each of them for the enormous courage and dignity they have shown in unimaginably difficult circumstances.”

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