The husband and father of a mother and two daughters who died in an arson attack over a grievance about rubbish has branded their murderer a “coward”.
Jamie Barrow, 31, poured petrol from his motorbike through 28-year-old Fatoumatta Hydara’s letterbox before starting the fire which killed her and her children Fatimah Drammeh, three, and Naeemah Drammeh, one.
He admitted manslaughter, claiming he was unaware they were home at the time, but was found guilty of three counts of murder at Nottingham Crown Court earlier this week.
At Barrow’s sentencing hearing on Friday, Aboubacarr Drammeh, Ms Hydara’s husband and the father of their girls, said he “knew exactly what he was doing and exactly when to do it”.
The girls were pronounced dead at hospital shortly after the fire started just after 3am on 20 November last year, while their mother died two days later from the effects of smoke inhalation.
Speaking about the moment he learned of the tragedy, Mr Drammeh said: “While I was praying, my phone started ringing continuously. I thought it was Fatoumatta, wanting to FaceTime.
“We all know it wasn’t. It was my mother-in-law and my sister, so I called back my mother-in-law and she said there was an accident and the kids did not survive and Fatoumatta was in the ICU.
“But it wasn’t an accident, was it?”
Barrow, who lived next door to the family, claimed to be unaware Ms Hydara and her children were at home when he started the fire – but jurors heard he ignored their screams as the blaze took hold.
He started the fire because of a “grievance” over bags of rubbish being left in an alleyway, prosecutors said.
All three of the victims died as a result of smoke inhalation after the fire at their first-floor flat in Fairisle Close, Clifton, Nottingham.
‘Nottingham has lost a great human being’
Addressing Barrow, Mr Drammeh said in a victim impact statement: “I can guarantee there are four grandparents and two great grandparents who would have traded their lives for these people.
“Because of you, you didn’t give them a choice. You took something they cherished.
“Fatoumatta and I were happy, grateful, to be parents. Our goal was to do our best to raise them to be good citizens and to teach them about our religion and culture.
“She had a clear vision and goal for them. They had to be good citizens, nothing less. Little Fatimah was enjoying making Nottingham her home.
“I guess you can imagine now how many times I have cried. I know they will not come back.
“Every time I came back for the trial I went there (the scene of the fire) at least once.
“I don’t know what is helping me to heal, but I hope it will help. Crying is a part of me.”
He says Nottingham has lost a “great human being” in Mrs Hydara, whom he met in Canada, and that his wife would have “helped without judging”.
The impact of Barrow’s actions was “infinite, immeasurable and innumerable”, he said.
“The only comfort I have is that you, a person, cannot do this to anyone else in the world.”
Barrow remained silent as the statement was read to the court – looking at Mr Drammeh and occasionally bowing his head.
Barrow, who admitted he drank “seven or eight” cans of San Miguel lager before the attack, later rang the local council to see whether he would be compensated for damage caused to his belongings by smoke.
He said he was driven to confess his actions to police hours later by “immense guilt”, telling them: “I need to tell you something about the fire next door.”
Barrow had previously admitted manslaughter but was unanimously convicted of three counts of murder and a count of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Mr Drammeh said: “His actions were utterly heartless and cruel – and have caused a multigenerational trauma that we will never understand.
“Fatoumatta was a caring daughter, wife, sister, mother and friend. If love and compassion could make a person immortal, she would have lived forever.
“She had a pure heart and was greatly loved for her personality and qualities.
“She was the most incredible mother to Fatimah and Naeemah, two angels who deserved a beautiful childhood and a full life.
“Nottingham and the rest of the world have been denied potential future teachers, civil servants, doctors – who knows what they could have been?”