Two men have been jailed for murdering a mother and her four-year-old son by setting their house on fire over a £400 drugs debt.
The blaze claimed the lives of Gina Ingles, 34, and her son Milo Ingles-Bailey, while her partner, Toby Jarrett, escaped out of a first floor window.
Ms Ingles’ body was found crouched over that of her young son, indicating that in her final moments she had sought to shield him from the devastating fire, a court heard.
The blaze was started in the dead of night after petrol poured through the front door was ignited at the home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, on July 10, 2018.
Firefighters found a burning fuel can outside the front door of the house – an item which became a vital piece of evidence in a murder case that took detectives to Portugal and back.
Jacob Barnard, 32, and his enforcer Andrew Milne, 42, were each found guilty of two counts of murder and one of attempted murder, following a trial, and appeared at Brighton Crown Court on Friday for sentencing.
Another man, 31-year-old John Tabakis, was convicted of perverting the course of justice and will be sentenced at a later date.
Jayne Ingles, whose daughter and grandson lost their lives in the blaze, said her family will “never understand” what happened.
In a statement read out by the prosecution she said: “I still close my eyes and imagine Gina waking to find the house on fire.
“Today, even as justice is done, it doesn’t really change a thing for us, it doesn’t bring Gina and Milo back to us.”
Mrs Justice Philippa Whipple spoke of the suffering of Ms Ingles and her four-year-old son Milo as the fire ripped through the house.
She said: “They must have been terrified in their last moments as smoke and fire engulfed them.”
Sentencing Barnard and Milne, she said they “gave no warning”, adding: “This was a crime under cover of darkness, a crime of stealth and cowardice.
“They lit the fire and then disappeared into the night.”
During the lengthy police investigation, a witness said Milne had assisted Barnard with setting the fire, police said.
They are believed to be the two men seen walking away from the fire, as captured on CCTV.
DNA recovered from the burning fuel can matched Milne, who is believed to have acted as Barnard’s enforcer, collecting unpaid debts, by force if necessary.
The deliberate fire at the home in Croxden Way, Eastbourne, was Barnard and Milne’s way of enforcing a drugs debt, police say.
The court heard that the debt may have been about £400.
Police raided Milne’s address and found machetes, knives, a Taser, and a balaclava.
Police pursuit of Barnard led them to Portugal, where he was interviewed and later extradited to the UK to face murder charges.
Barnard, previously of Spring Steps, Winchelsea, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years.
Furniture remover Milne, of Wilmington Road, Hastings was jailed for life with a minimum term of 34 years.
Senior investigating officer Gordon Denslow said: “This was a carefully planned, cowardly, but horrific attack carried out by Barnard and Milne in the middle of the night against a defenceless family.
“Tabakis then knowingly tried to help them get away with their crimes by driving the car they used during the attack to Portugal, just hours afterwards.”