Three guilty over baby arson death in Camberwell

Two brothers and a mother have been found guilty at the Old Bailey in relation to the death of 19-month-old baby girl who died following an arson attack in Camberwell.

Richard Curtis Kwayke, 28, of Andover Road, Twickenham was found guilty of the murder of Siariah Letang and attempted murder.

Kwayke’s 19-year-old brother Dimitri John-Lewis, of Wilmcote House, Paddington was found guilty of the manslaughter of Siariah and perverting the course of justice for his role in the fatal fire.

Their mother Josephine Nicolas, 46, of Wilmcote House, Paddington, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

His Honour Judge Forrester said that Kwayke faces life imprisonment with a long minimum term. John-Lewis is also facing a long custodial sentence and Nicholas, who he remanded in custody, also faces a custodial sentence.

Police were called shortly after 04:30hrs to the fire at the address in Arnould Avenue, in Camberwell, South London. Officers, London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and the London Air Ambulance attended.

Toddler Siariah Letang, who was just 19 months’ old, and four members of her family were brought out from the building and all taken to hospital.

Siariah was pronounced dead on arrival at King’s College Hospital, having died from carbon monoxide poisoning from inhaling smoke.

Siariah’s mother, 24, her four-year-old brother, her 11-year-old half-sister and 45-year-old grandmother suffered from burns and smoke inhalation and were later released from hospital.

After an investigation team from London Fire Brigade deemed the fire to be arson an incident room was opened by Detective Chief Inspector Rick Murphy, from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Homicide Command.

The remnants of a plastic bottle were discovered on the doormat along with a piece of tapered paper. There was severe fire and smoke damage to the property after the accelerant caused a “flash explosion”.

The court heard how Kwayke started the fire on 18th September 2010 at a maisonette in Camberwell, in a revenge attack after a fall out with the family. He poured petrol through the letterbox and set it alight while Siariah and four others slept upstairs.

Officers arrested Kwayke in his Twickenham home later that day.
Josephine Nicolas was arrested on 21st September 2010 on suspicion of attempting to perverse the course of justice, having given a false alibi in respect to Kwayke’s movements when interviewed by police.

Dimitri John-Lewis was also arrested on 21st September 2010 on suspicion of murder. He had been caught on CCTV a few hours before the attack carrying a petrol can from his home address. He left the address with his brother in a blue Ford Escort.

At 01:30hrs CCTV captured the Escort driving into Porchester Terrace from Bayswater Road and passing a Shell petrol garage and pulling up. John-Lewis then walked back to the petrol station and filled up the container, paying for £3.00 worth of petrol.

Detective Inspector Nigel Foster, from the MPS’s Homicide Command, said: “This was a cold-blooded and pre-mediated attack with the full knowledge that young children were asleep in the property with the rest of the family. It has resulted in the tragic death of a little girl who had yet to reach her second birthday. The fire has wrecked the lives of all those concerned.”

Inspector Foster expressed hope that the convictions would “go some way towards helping the family come to terms with their dreadful loss.”

Kwayke’s 29-year old girlfriend Sasha Williamson was found not guilty of perverting the course of justice.

Sentencing has been adjourned to 28th July at the Old Bailey.