Landlord who was a fireman is jailed after blaze killed tenants

A landlord who was a fireman when five members of a family were killed by arson in one of his properties has been jailed.

In the notorious case, the fire was started by a neighbour, who was jailed for life two years ago for their murder.

Melanie Smith, who was ordered to serve a minimum 30 years, torched a pram in the communal hallway of the property.

In the ensuing blaze, landlord Jay Liptrot was one of the fire fighters summoned to the scene and who tried desperately to save the young family.

Liptrot had been facing five manslaughter charges at the start of his trial.

On the second day, these charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of failing to take fire precautions, exposing people to risk.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard that a basic fire door, costing just £250, would have slowed the spread of the fire for 30 minutes.

Fire fighters, including Liptrot, had arrived within six minutes of a 999 call. By then it was too late.

A “woefully inadequate” door made of glass and thin wood failed to act as a barrier, and instead funnelled heat and smoke “like a chimney” to the upstairs flat.

That caused a skylight to smash, allowing the fire to accelerate.

The court heard that Liptrot had been “at the forefront of brave efforts” to rescue the couple, aged 23 and 20, and the children aged four, two and one.

Liptrot, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison, had been a fire fighter for 15 years, but has now lost his job. The court also ordered him to pay £4,299 prosecution costs plus a £100 victim surcharge.

The court heard he owns 11 properties in the Prestatyn area.

After the case, North Wales Fire and Rescue said it is introducing a policy requiring staff to declare any conflict of interest, such as being a landlord.

The father of the young mother who died said of Liptrot that he had been “a great guy to the family for 18 years” and “an honest and loyal friend”.

Peter Shiers said: “We don’t think he’s to blame for the fire, but was responsible for the safety measures.”

Passing sentence, Mrs Justice McGowan said: “Jay Liptrot has generally been a good and conscientious landlord. However, his culpability must be categorised as high.”

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer Simon Smith said Liptrot would now be the subject of an internal investigation, adding that a custodial sentence meant he “cannot continue as an employee”.

He said: “As a responsible employer whose priority is the safety of the public, it is of course of deep concern to us that an employee, as a landlord, failed to take precautions to ensure this property was safe which not only goes against legislation but also against the core values of our service.”

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