A mother who lost four children in a devastating house fire today spoke of her surprise at finding happiness again.
Michelle Smith was celebrating her 36th birthday when a deliberate fire claimed the lives of her four-year-old twin daughters Holly and Ella, two-year-old son Jordan and her brave 19-year-old son Reece who tried to save them.
But the mum-of-11, who has vowed never to celebrate her birthday again, has now found love and is planning to get married next June.
Speaking to The Gazette, she said: “I didn’t think I would find anyone again, I found it really hard to trust people.
“I’m happy, I’m moving on from what’s happened, it’s a good thing after everything. We have set a date for June next year, he’s a chef and a good man.
“I still think of my children every day, it’s still painful, I still feel lost because they were my life. They will always be in my head, in my heart, they will never be forgotten. Certain songs, certain situations always remind me of them.”
Initially, Michelle said she blamed herself for the blaze at the family home in Lytham Road, Freckleton, on January 7, 2012.
Following a trial earlier this year, 19-year-old Dyson Allen was found guilty of manslaughter and told he must serve a minimum of nine years and three months behind bars.
Michelle said: “I thought it was my fault to start with, a lamp I had left on a wardrobe in the bedroom. I didn’t think it would have been Dyson.
“A fireman had said it looked like an electrical fault, I thought that I was to blame.”
Michelle said she was having a gathering to celebrate her birthday when the blaze engulfed the upstairs of the family home.
She said: “There was probably 20 people who had come round but most had left by 9pm. I would say there was about nine people left in the house when the fire started and four of them were the children.
“I remember after the fire being sat on the wall outside and seeing Reece being resuscitated on the driveway. In my heart I knew Reece had passed.
“I don’t remember seeing the other kids being brought out though. I don’t even remember seeing my mum.
“I was told at the hospital the children had died, I just dropped my head and put my hands over my face and started sobbing.”
Talking about Allen, she said: “The sentence will never be enough, life should mean life.”
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, Michelle’s thoughts and grief locked on to how the tragedy could have happened.
Then one day a letter came through the door from the police saying there had been a major breakthrough in the investigation. She said: “I wondered what on earth that could mean. Then the police came to the house and told me they didn’t think it was an accident. They said clothes had been set alight deliberately and someone had been arrested.”
Sentencing Allen, Mr Justice Males said the 19-year-old had no motive to harm the children, and the blaze was started as he was “out of his head on a combination of alcohol and cannabis”.
The children were buried in a joint funeral, Reece shared the same coffin as Jordan and the twins shared a second coffin.
As time passed Michelle tried to pick up her life and was given a glimmer of hope when she gave birth to another set of twins. As a special tribute to the brothers and sisters they will never meet, she named the babies Elly Louise and Jaden Reece.
However, the twins no longer live with Michelle. She said: “I’m happy they’re at their dad’s. I live my life adoring all of my children, and the children I’ve lost.”