Inquest into tragic toddler’s death
By Rebeca Penston
A MAN could have deliberately started a fire that killed his two-year-old step-daughter because he wanted to feed his hero-complex.
A court heard today/yesterday (TUES) that fantasist Terry Webb lied to his partner Stacey Catch about serving in the paratroopers - also telling her that his sister had been brutally murdered by her partner.
At Wakefield Coroners Court, Stacey admitted it was “a possibility” that Terry - who she had met online and only seen face-to-face once before she moved in with him - had started the blaze which killed her two-year-old daughter Isobel Dobson so that he could rescue her and play the hero.
Little Isobel - known as Izzy - died on September 30 2011, at Hessle Farm at Wragby, near Wakefield, West Yorks., after a horrific inferno engulfed the van where she and half-sister Sarah were sitting. Sarah was rescued but tragically Izzy perished in the blaze.
Terry had taken Isobel and her one-year-old sister to their van - an adapted Ford Transit van which was carrying gardening equiment in the back, which had been parked next to a barn full of hay - so they could eat their dinner while their mother Stacey tended to some horses with her sister.
He strapped them into their car seats and left them eating sausage rolls, before returning to the stable, about 40 feet away and not visible from the van. Stacey noted that he had seemed distracted on his return.
But just minutes later, the three heard screaming that the van was on fire, and they ran back to see huge orange flames lapping the barn and the offside of the van. They could hear screams from the girls inside the flame-engulfed vehicle.
Terry managed to pull Sarah from the passenger side of the van through a window but the flames were too big for him to reach little Isobel - who was pronounced dead at 7.20pm.
Yesterday Coroner David Hinchliff asked tearful Stacey: “There is a belief in this case that Mr Webb probably didn’t want to harm the children but he might have deliberately started the fire so that he could rescue them, so therefore in everybody’s eyes be a hero. What’s your view?”
Mum Stacey replied: “I do believe that’s possible.”
The court heard that Stacey, who is divorced from Isobel’s father Andrew - who was a second team player for Selby Warriors rugby league club, first met Mr Webb - who was from the Isle of White - online. He told her he had just come out of the army after serving with the Paratroopers.
When the pair first met in January 2010, he confessed to Stacey that he self-harmed and suffered from medical conditions including depression, and that he saw psychiatrists. He also told her that he had two children who were - at that time - aged 11 and nine, who his wife would not always let him have access to.
Just weeks after they met, Terry moved in with Stacey and Isobel. Stacey was pregnant with her younger daughter Sarah, and although Terry was not the father, they decided to tell everyone she was and he was even named on her birth certificate.
Terry told Stacey that his sister had been brutally murdered by her partner, saying that his parents never liked to talk about it - and suggesting they name the new baby after his dead sister - Sarah, which Stacey agreed to.
Just weeks after Sarah was born, Stacey found Terry in the bathroom where he had badly cut himself with a stanley knife.
Terry lied to everyone they met about being in the armed forces - talking to Stacey’s grandmother about his service, going into detail about shoot-to-kill olicies and telling them he had served in Afghanistan. He even wore combat trousers on the day they moved in together.
But Stacey told the coroner’s court that she became suspicious about Terry after speaking to his wife, who told Stacey that he had not served in the army. She confronted him, but instead of admitting his lies, he tried to amend his story, telling her he had come out the army five years ago.
When she pushed him, he admitted he had never served in the military, adding it was something he had always wanted to do but had failed a medical test.
Coroner Hinchliff commented: “It’s almost an illness. Almost as if he wanted an exciting life. Rather than probably an ordinary, probably boring, little man who drove a van on the Isle of White.
“And after he had confessed to you about being in the army, he continued to lie to your family.”
Stacey also confronted him about his sister who had been brutally murdered, and he admited lying, saying he wanted people to feel sorry for him, the court heard.
Mr Hinchliff said: “One minute he wanted people to feel sorry for him and the next he wanted people to think he was a war hero.”
And referring to the suggestion that Terry had started the blaze that killed Isobel deliberately so he could then rescue the children, the coroner said: “He would have dined out on that forever. If he can lie about his sister and about his military career he can lie about that.
“Terry was in the vicinity, he would have had an opportunity. Firefighters say [the fire] wasn’t a smouldering fire, it was putting a naked flame next to the hay.”
The court also heard how Terry carried on lying about his military career - even telling ambulance and policemen after the fire.
And incredibly, he boasted about his driving skills - after having moved a car out of the way of the blaze when Isobel was still inside the van, he bragged: “Did you see that drift? I’m the only person who can get a front wheel drive car to drift”.
Coroner Hinchliff told how witnesses described him as “exhilirated”, telling people “It was like something out of James Bond”.
To Stacey, Coroner Hinchliff commented: “In your statement you describe how Terry seemed excited and you described his laugh. It’s a bit spooky really.
“He’s very unstable. He was still trying this fearles soldier routine.”
The court also heard from PC James Dooley who told the court that he had made “small talk” with Terry at the hospital about his military service, as the copper had also served.
Terry told him that he had served in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Rowanda and Ireland - but when the PC tried to engage him in any more detail by telling him that he too had served in Ireland, Terry went quiet.
The policeman also asked Terry at a later date what his army number was, which Terry replied he couldn’t remember - something the PC said was unusual.
The case continues.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Goole
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South