Jury records verdict of unlawful killing and suicide in conclusion of Broadheath fire inquest

10:30am Tuesday 25th March 2014

By Kate Banks

A MOTHER and son who died after her former partner set fire to their Broadheath home were unlawfully killed, a jury concluded.


On March 21, the final day of the four-week inquest held at Stockport Coroners' Court, the jury also found that David Potts committed suicide in the attack that killed Tracy Jones and her 15-year-old son, Shaun Van Straaten.


Mr Potts broke in to Ms Jones' Barlow Road home on September 19 2011, dousing much of the ground floor and stairs in petrol.


Ms Jones and Shaun struggled with Mr Potts - Shaun hitting he older man with a hammer - but Mr Potts was able to alight the petrol vapours and all three were engulfed in flames.


Mr Potts, 39, died almost instantly, Shaun died in hospital on September 21 and Ms Jones, 40, died two months later.


Ms Jones' two other children, 18-year-old Cailin Van Straaten and four-year-old Zach Jones, were also in the house at the time of the arson attack, but were rescued by neighbours and firefighters.


Before directing the jury to consider their verdicts on March 19, South Manchester area coroner, Joanne Kearsley, summarised the evidence heard during the course of the inquest.


Miss Kearsley reminded the jury of evidence heard from Clare Lomax, from Trafford Social Services, who visited Ms Jones on August 12 2011, telling her that in light of Mr Potts' emotionally unstable personality disorder, conviction for assault and previous history of sexual activity with a minor, her youngest children could be taken into care if she did not end her relationship with him.
 

Although Ms Jones was aware of Mr Potts' previous history, she agreed to end their relationship.


When Miss Lomax informed Mr Potts of this, he became so angry that she locked all the doors of Ms Jones' house and called the police.


The inquest also heard that Mr Potts was admitted to Wythenshawe Hospital with a heart attack on August 29 2011 and expressed thoughts of self harm, but refused heart bypass surgery and discharged himself.


Mr Potts' friend, Robert Stevenson, gave evidence that Mr Potts became angry after being shown text messages sent from Ms Jones, to him, in which Ms Jones expressed her fear of Mr Potts and that she no longer wished to see him.


Mr Stevenson also said he heard Mr Potts say 'I'll kill her' the weekend before the fire, but he did not report this to the police.


The inquest followed a serious case review published in January, which found health officers had ‘failed to grasp’ the seriousness of the situation.


THE coroner also reminded the jury that after Mr Potts’ death his mother, Christine Potts, found ‘goodbye notes’ left in her house and handed them in to police.


The note addressed to her read:


“Hi Mum,


“Sorry left this for you to sort out. You're the only one I can trust. I don't want you to let what I've done get you down, I just did not want to carry on.
 

“I have worked so hard for the past year trying to get on with my life after what happened with G, even having E just to have he taken off me.


“Then to find Tracy, the love of my life, oh I worked so hard for me and Tracy to be together just to have her taken away as well at the last minute.


“That was it for me.


“I have tried so hard to get someone to listen to me but no one would.


“I am sorry for hurting you but no one can hurt me anymore.”
 

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