A ‘pyrotechnic teenager’ who started an inferno that ripped through a house and killed four siblings has been handed his first parole hearing and could walk free.
Dyson Allen, now 29, has served less than 10-years of a life sentence for deliberately starting a fire whilst ‘stoned and drunk’ at a family home in Freckleton, Lancashire, on January 7, 2012.
Four-year-old twins Holly and Ella Smith and their two-year-old brother Jordan were asleep as the blaze took hold in a wardrobe, while elder brother Reece, 19, was overcome by fumes as he went upstairs to try and rescue them.
All four died from the effects of smoke inhalation following the blaze, which occurred as their mother Michelle Smith held a chaotic drug-fuelled party for her 36th birthday.
Allen, then 19, was convicted of four counts of manslaughter at Preston Crown Court in 2013. He was cleared of their murders.
Dyson Allen, now 29, has served less than 10-years of a life sentence for deliberately starting a fire whilst ‘stoned and drunk’ at a family home in Freckleton, Lancashire, in January 2012
Four-year-old twins Holly and Ella Smith (above) were asleep as the blaze took hold in a wardrobe
Reece Smith (right) died as he tried to save his twin sisters and little brother Jordan (left), aged two
The teenager, who had been drinking vodka since lunchtime, was preparing to light a cannabis pipe or ‘bong’ when he started the fatal fire in a bedroom. He was ordered to serve a minimum jail term of nine-years and three months, which has just expired.
This is his first parole hearing and it is expected to be heard in April.
A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: ‘An oral hearing has been listed for the parole review of Dyson Allen and is scheduled to take place in April 2023. Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
‘A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
‘Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead up to an oral hearing.
‘Evidence from witnesses including probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements are then given at the hearing.
‘The prisoner and witnesses are then questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more.
One expert told the trial the fire had probably been started by clothes in the wardrobe being set alight. Further forensic evidence showed the three children in the bedroom were likely to have been ‘incapacitated very quickly’ but that Ella and Jordan made attempts to escape
The charred remains of clothes recovered from the children’s room
‘Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’
The Parole Board has the power to recommend that Allen be released on licence. If there is no appeal from the Justice Secretary, he could be back on the streets by August. If he is not released, Allen could be sent to an open prison where he will be eligible for day release and work in the community.
As the verdicts were read out at court in July 2013, members of the victims’ family shouted ‘yes!’, but a woman linked to Allen called out: ‘It’s all her fault. If she had not had that party, none of this would have happened.’
It was later learnt that Miss Smith had given birth to her ninth child since the tragedy, and the four children who died had three different fathers. She had been celebrating her birthday at her home, the trial was told.
Members of the group spent the afternoon drinking and smoking cannabis, Neil Flewitt QC told Preston Crown Court.
‘As a result, the recollection of most of the witnesses is affected, by some extent, by drink and in some cases by drugs in the form of cannabis,’ he said.
Firefighters outside the house where the three children and a teenager were killed
The teenager, who had been drinking vodka since lunchtime, was preparing to light a cannabis pipe or ‘bong’ when he started the fatal fire in a bedroom
He was ordered to serve a minimum jail term of nine-years and three months, which has just expired. This is his first parole hearing and it is expected to be heard in April
Allen, a mechanic, was a friend of the family and kept some belongings in the younger children’s room after staying at the house.
Miss Smith allowed teenagers to smoke cannabis in an outside building known as ‘the chamber’, the court heard.
Allen had been ‘drunk or stoned’ and later in the evening had been preparing ‘a mix’ for a bong marked ‘killer’ in which to smoke cannabis.
Miss Smith was alerted by Allen running downstairs shouting ‘Fire!’, at which Reece went to try to rescue his siblings. Smoke alarms had been fitted on the stairs, but Reece had taken them down in the days before the fire because one or both ‘kept making beeping noises’.
Allen denied starting the fire, saying he was looking for a friend upstairs when he noticed an ‘orange glow’ under the door.
In a witness statement given to police in the early hours of January 8th 2012, Allen said he began celebrating Miss Smith’s birthday at lunchtime by drinking from a bottle of vodka.
Allen said he was upstairs when the lights suddenly went out and he thought it was a power cut.
He saw the children’s bedroom door was shut but he could see an ‘orange glow’ in a gap at the bottom.
The Parole Board has the power to recommend that Allen be released on licence. If there is no appeal from the Justice Secretary, he could be back on the streets by August
‘I opened the door to check and all of a sudden thick black smoke just hit me in the face,’ he said. ‘It knocked me backwards.
‘I started shouting ”fire, fire” straight away.’
He said he told Reece there was a fire and to ‘get those kids out.’ He ran downstairs to rouse a person who had fallen asleep on the sofa and then ran outside.
The court heard that Reece was heard kicking at the door to the children’s bedroom as others escaped from the property.
Police were immediately suspicious of Allen, knowing he had been the only adult upstairs at the time. Several detailed forensic examinations showed that the fire had been started deliberately.
One expert told the trial the fire had probably been started by clothes in the wardrobe being set alight.
Further forensic evidence showed the three children in the bedroom were likely to have been ‘incapacitated very quickly’ but that Ella and Jordan made attempts to escape.
It also emerged during the trial that Allen had set fires as a schoolboy and was known to police.
A friend told the trial how the pair would regularly start fires. He gave evidence in court and continued to deny any involvement in the deaths.
David Fish QC, defending, asked Allen: ‘Did you start that fire in the wardrobe at Lytham Road on January 7 last year?’
‘No,’ the defendant replied.
‘Either accidentally or deliberately?’ continued his barrister.
‘No,’ he said again.
After the verdicts in 2013, Miss Smith, then 37, and Reece’s father, Martin Goulding, said in a statement: ‘We’ll never know the reason our children were taken away from us. We would like to pay tribute to Reece, who paid the ultimate price for trying to rescue his brothers and sisters and for that we will be eternally grateful and proud.’
After sentencing, Miss Smith said in a statement, the family had to ‘live with the loss of the children each and every day’.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dermott Horrigan said: ‘This has been one of the most tragic and significant cases that Lancashire has seen for a number of years which has left a family and community devastated by their loss.
‘Four innocent people died as a result of the actions of this man who has shown no remorse and lied throughout the investigation and court case.
‘There were plenty of opportunities for Dyson Allen to admit his guilt yet he persisted with his denial causing the family even further anguish and the ordeal of not having to sit through a trial but to stand up and give evidence as well.’