Three men have been convicted in connection with a house fire which killed a mother and her young son in Eastbourne.
Andrew Milne, 42, a furniture remover, of Wilmington Road, Hastings, John Tabakis, 31, unemployed, of Cornwallis Gardens, Hastings, and Jacob Barnard, 32, unemployed, previously of Spring Steps, Winchelsea, were each found guilty by a jury which returned its verdict following a six-week trial at Brighton Crown Court today (Thursday, May 27), said Sussex Police.
The convictions were in relation to a blaze in Croxden Way, Eastbourne, just before 1am on July 10, 2018, that claimed the lives of Gina Ingles, 34, and her son Milo Ingles-Bailey, aged four.
Gina’s partner Toby Jarrett, now 29, escaped through a first floor window and sustained serious injuries including severe burns, according to police.
Police said emergency services attended the scene and firefighters were able to recover a fuel can found still alight immediately outside the front door of the house.
This would later become a vital piece of evidence.
A lighter was also recovered close by with DNA found on it which was used to identify Jacob Barnard, said police.
Vehicle insurance checks revealed Barnard had a traders’ policy covering multiple cars including a Mercedes ML270, a Renault Megane and a Saab 900.
A police spokesperson said: “Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) checks showed the Mercedes had travelled from Hastings to Eastbourne and back around the time of the offence.
“The Renault was used several days prior to the offence and considered to have been part of a reconnaissance visit.
“On 10 July 2018, just hours after the fire, the Saab was used by Barnard, while John Tabakis drove the Mercedes out of the country.
“Eight days later, the Mercedes was written off following a single vehicle collision in Porto, Portgual. It had been driven by another associate of Barnard.”
Police said Tabakis subsequently left the country, but was later arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice.
In December 2018, Barnard was arrested in Portugal for drug offences and was convicted and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment, according to police.
Police said in December 2019 officers travelled to Portugal and interviewed Mr Barnard before he was extradited to the UK on January 5, 2021 and charged with two counts of murder, and one of attempted murder.
A police spokesperson said: “Witness testimony indicated that Milne had assisted Barnard with setting the fire. They are believed to be the two men seen walking away from the fire, as captured on CCTV.”
On July 28, 2020, Milne was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and one of attempted murder and was remanded in custody ahead of the trial, according to police.
Police said following a search of his address, a bag containing gloves, a balaclava, knives and a taser was found in a shed while Milne’s DNA was found on all items.
Two machetes were also discovered and he was further arrested for possession of a taser, said police.
A police spokesperson said: “The court heard how Toby and Gina had an outstanding drugs debt to a third party, which was enforced by two men – now identified as Barnard and Milne – in the form of a deliberate fire.
“All three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges put to them, but were all found guilty by jury.”
Barnard, 32, unemployed, previously of Spring Steps, Winchelsea; and Milne, 42, a furniture remover, of Wilmington Road, Hastings, have been remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday, May 28.
Tabakis, 31, unemployed, of Cornwallis Gardens, Hastings, was released on bail to be sentenced at a date yet to be set.
Senior investigating officer of the Surrey and Sussex major crime team Gordon Denslow said: “The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the events which tragically cost Gina Ingles and her four-year-old son, Milo, their lives has been very long and very complex.
“At no point have Barnard or Milne accepted responsibility for their actions in the early hours of 10 July 2018, or expressed any remorse or regret.
“Instead, their unfounded denials in the face of compelling evidence have meant that Gina’s and Milo’s family have had to endure a long and painful wait to find out what really happened that night, and why. They have been forced to re-live the terrible loss of their loved ones once again during this trial.
“I am grateful to the court and in particular to the members of the jury who have reached what I have always believed to be the right, and only conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence presented to them over the last six weeks.
“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.
“Whilst there is sadly nothing that can ever be said or done to undo the events of that tragic night, I can only hope that this outcome provides some comfort to Gina’s and Milo’s family, who have acted with remarkable patience and dignity throughout this prolonged investigation.”