A woman whose two young sons died in a house fire has told a jury she repeatedly asked her property manager to fit smoke alarms – “but he never did.”
Logan Taylor, three, and Jake Casey, two, died in a blaze at their home in Fartown in what a jury at Leeds Crown Court was told was an “eminently avoidable” tragedy.
The boys’ mother, Emma Taylor, told a jury she asked property management company director Kamal Bains “time after time” to fit fire alarms at the house he managed.
Ms Taylor said: “I was fed up with my kids living in danger because he can’t be bothered to fit a smoke alarm.
“He said he would do it but he never did.”
Describing one incident in which she showed Bains a news story about smoke alarm regulations, Ms Taylor said: “He didn’t really seem bothered. As long as he got his rent money, he was happy for me to live like that with my kids.
“He just fobbed me off.”
Ms Taylor was giving evidence on the first day of the trial of Bains, 51, who denies gross negligence manslaughter.
She was in tears as she described how the fire broke out in the boys’ bedroom on February 20, 2016.
Ms Taylor said she was beaten back by thick smoke as she tried to pull her children to safety.
The jury was told the blaze at the three-bedroom house in Alder Street began with an electrical fault in a TV in the boys’ bedroom.
Ms Taylor said she had told Bains as soon as she moved into the house in May 2015 that she needed smoke alarms fitting, especially after an incident a few months earlier when another of her young sons set fire to a tea-towel on a gas ring.
She outlined a series of problems in the house, saying: “There were that many problems it was hard to keep up with it.”
Prosecutor Allan Compton told the jury that Bains was the “heart of soul” of the now defunct property management company Prime Property Estates (Yorkshire), which maintained around 140 homes in the Huddersfield area on behalf of private landlords for a 10% cut of the rent.
Mr Compton said: “He was responsible for an inexcusable failure to ensure that 256 Alder Street was equipped with working smoke alarms.
“It was a tragedy, we say, that was eminently avoidable.”
Mr Compton told the jury previous tenants at the property had also complained about a lack of alarms and one was told she needed to fit one herself.
He said Bains told police there were smoke alarms installed when the family moved in but fire investigators found no trace of any alarms.
Mr Compton said tests conducted by investigators showed that Ms Taylor would have had five minutes to rescue her two boys if an alarm had been fitted.
The prosecutor said Bains would have been “fully aware” that new laws came into force in October 2015 which meant it was mandatory for smoke alarms to be fitted on all floors of rented properties.
He said Bains told detectives all of his properties had smoke alarms but tenants would take them down when they sounded.
Bains, of Stableford Gardens, Birkby, denies two counts of manslaughter and one offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Mr Compton said Ms Taylor and her partner, Jamie Casey, had repeatedly asked Bains to install alarms from the day they moved into the property in April 2015.
He said the couple found the house was in a “poor state” when they moved in, with faults including mould in the kitchen, a condemned gas fire and cracked plugs.
The prosecutor said Bains later told police it was the worst property on his books.
Mr Compton told the jury that Ms Taylor specifically asked about smoke alarms when the family moved in as her eldest child had started a fire at a previous property by putting a tea towel on a gas ring.
He also said that Logan was autistic.
Mr Compton said: “If ever there was an address to prioritise in ensuring alarms were present it would be 256 Alder Street.”
He said previous tenants at the property had also complained about a lack of alarms and one was told she needed to fit one herself.
Mr Compton told the jury that Bains told police there were smoke alarms installed when the family moved in but fire investigators found no trace of any alarms.
The investigation also found that the conditions would have been “untenable” at just under 17 minutes after the ignition of the TV.
Mr Compton said tests showed that a smoke alarm on the upstairs landing would have activated between 10 minutes, 32 seconds and 11 minutes after ignition.
This meant, he said, that a working smoke alarm would have given Ms Taylor five minutes to rescue her children.
He told the jury how new laws came into force in October 2015 which meant it was mandatory for smoke alarms to be fitted on all floors of rented properties.
The prosecutor said Bains would have been “fully aware” of this.
He said Bains told detectives that all of his properties had smoke alarms but tenants would take them down when they sounded.