Tarnished by smoke and ash, the innocent pink of this single bed cover is the only sign left that this was once a child’s bedroom.
For the family of 19-year-old Reece Smith, four-year-old twins Holly and Ella and Jordan, aged two, what unfolded around it is a horror almost unimaginable.
The youngest children were sound asleep when Dyson Allen set alight clothing inside the wardrobe in their bedroom, using a naked flame.
It was just before 11.30pm last January 7 when fire broke out at the home in Lytham Road, Freckleton, as the children’s mother Michelle Smith celebrated her birthday, unaware of the tragedy unfolding.
The young children all perished in the blaze. Heroic Reece tried desperately to save his siblings, but lost his life too.
Yesterday, members of a jury at Preston Crown Court cleared Allen, of no fixed address, of four charges of murder following the six-week long trial.
But they unanimously decided he was guilty of manslaughter.
As the jury read out its verdict yesterday afternoon there were cries of “yes” from the Smith family and friends in the public gallery.
Allen sobbed, put his head in his hands and shook his head.
Today, the children’s family were left asking why they were taken from them. It is, they admit, a question which may never be answered.
In a statement read outside the court by Det Con Ian McVittie, the family said: “We are pleased Dyson Allen has been convicted of the manslaughter of our beautiful children Reece, Holly, Ella and Jordan.
“We’ll never know the reason why our children were taken from us but even knowing the answer won’t bring them back.
“He had the chance to explain his actions to the police and the court but he lied from the very beginning.”
The family – Michelle, Reece’s father Martin Goulding and Michelle’s mother Christine Smith – praised the emergency services for trying to save the children, and the police for their effort in bringing Allen to justice.
They added: “We would like to pay tribute to Reece, who paid the ultimate price for trying to rescue his brothers and sisters and for that we will be eternally grateful and very, very proud.”
Mr Goulding said his son was a hero and his best friend.
Det Chief Supt Dermott Horrigan, of Lancashire Police, described the incident as one of the most “tragic and significant” cases the county had seen for years.
He said: “Four innocent people died as a result of the actions of this man who has shown no remorse and lied throughout the investigation and court case.
“There were plenty of opportunities for Dyson Allen to admit his guilt yet he persisted with his denial causing the family further anguish and the ordeal of not only having to sit through a trial but to stand up and give evidence as well.
“Officers from across the force worked tirelessly on what was an incredibly tragic and difficult investigation to bring this case to court.”
Det Chief Supt Horrigan said Allen had been a suspect since his arrest a number of days after the tragic fire.
He added: “We do not know at the moment why he did this but we are hoping he might reconsider his position and what he put the family and community through.
“He is the only person who knows why he deliberately put an (ignited) source into that wardrobe while three small children were in the bedroom.
“Our thoughts remain with the family and although nothing will bring their children back, I hope (this) result will bring them some closure and help them to come to terms with the most devastating loss one can possibly imagine.”
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service group manager Mark Hutton was in charge of the incident intelligence team at the time of the fire.
He described the blaze as one of the most tragic fires the service had ever attended.
He said: “It was a very difficult scene to deal with, and is not one most firefighters face in their careers.
“In the immediate aftermath, and for over a year afterwards, specialist fire investigators from our incident intelligence function worked as part of a multi-agency team to establish not only how this started but also why it developed so quickly and with such tragic consequences.
“Sadly the consistent picture that emerged was that of an extremely fast growing fire that produced conditions in the first floor that became fatal in a matter of minutes.”
Crown Advocate Joanne Cunliffe, for CPS North West’s Complex Casework Unit, said: “Dyson Allen’s actions in deliberately starting a fire in a bedroom where three young children were sleeping were truly wicked.
“The heroic efforts of their brother, Reece, to rescue Holly, Ella and Jordan from the fire also led to the tragic loss of his own life. This act of bravery is in stark contrast to the cowardice shown by Dyson Allen, who attempted to evade responsibility for his actions.”
The Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC, warned Allen “a substantial prison sentence” is inevitable.
Sentencing was adjourned until September 27 for psychiatric reports.