Dozens of volunteers put in 900 hours of labour to rebuild a mother’s home after ex-husband torched it

33BBF90300000578-0-image-a-4_1462211212002[1]Dozens of volunteers helped rebuild a home for a mother who lost her two sons when her ex-husband set fire to their house.

A total of 60 people worked for 900 hours at the home of Claire Sykes in Penistone, South Yorkshire. The work of the kind-hearted community was worth around £40,000.

Darren Sykes died alongside Paul, nine, and Jack, 12, after setting a fire in his home and locking himself and the boys in the attic in October 2014.

The 44-year-old had been worried about how much he would be able to see the children after recently divorcing from their mother.

Mr Sykes died in the attic after inhaling smoke while Paul’s body was found near the edge of the loft. Jack, who was found unconscious next to its hatch door, died in hospital five days later.

Ms Sykes, 44, later discovered that her ex-husband had cancelled the home insurance for their house.

She had no money to repair the gutted semi-detached home and told her local vicar that she felt suicidal.

Family friend Ged Brealey arranged for a group of volunteers in the community to rewire, plaster and decorate the damaged home.

They also fitted in a new kitchen for Ms Sykes, along with new carpets and plumbing work.

‘I can’t thank them enough. They lifted me up on their shoulders like the pall-bearers had my sons.

‘I was distraught and told Rev Hopkin, “That’s it, I’m done”. He got me to carry on and appealed for help. People volunteered £40,000 of time and materials.’

Volunteer Dave Cherry added: ‘That man destroyed everything. But by helping this lass, we stopped him from winning.’

In the days before his death the father-of-two sent letters to a bank telling them he ‘would not be alive’ to pay his mortgage.

When the three were killed in the fire, he sent a text message to a handful of friends saying ‘he was going to be at peace’.

Following a police statement which described the ongoing custody battle between Mr Sykes and his estranged wife Claire, he added: ‘He may have taken the view he would have less access.’

On the morning of his death Mr Sykes spent £800 on a model railway track before sending text messages to both his sons asking them to visit him at his house that day.

Before luring them into the attic he sprayed four cans of petrol across the ground floor of the house and barricaded doors with furniture.

He had also tied the front and back garden gates with cord to prevent anyone from accessing the property.

Source: Anthony Joseph

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