An arsonist who killed four siblings in a house fire was “out of his head” on cannabis and alcohol when he started the blaze.
Dyson Allen, who wore a grey suit and pink tie, was led into the dock at Preston Crown Court shaking and sobbing into a tissue.
The 19-year-old sat down and buried his face in his hands before looking at his friends in the public gallery and shaking his head.
The former garage apprentice was found guilty of the manslaughter of Reece Smith, 19, his twin sisters Ella and Holly, four, and brother Jordan, two.
The siblings died from the effects of smoke inhalation, with Reece overpowered as he tried to rescue the younger children from their home on Lytham Road, Freckleton – where Allen had been staying – on January 7, 2012.
Allen was barely able to stand and had to be supported by two security officers as the judge, Mr Justice Males, addressed him.
As a life sentence with a minimum term of nine years and three months was passed was passed, the youngsters’ mum, Michelle Smith, who was sitting on the front row of the public gallery with her mum Christine and Reece’s father Martin Goulding, began to cry as the judge said: “The children were heard calling for their mother.
“In the dark and heat and smoke these frightened young children were unable to find their way out of the room.
“By the time the fire brigade arrived Reece Smith was already dead.
“I accept you did not intend the children serious harm but remorse must be judged on your conduct as a whole including the many lies you told to save your own skin.”
Allen mouthed “No” and sobbed audibly as the judge asked: “So why did you do it?
“It is a mystery, but in another it seems clear - you were out of your head due to a lethal cocktail of cannabis and alcohol.”
He added Allen had a fascination with fire particularly when under the influence.
Allen still denies starting the fire which broke out at a party to celebrate their mum Michelle Smith’s birthday in Freckleton.
Prosecuting, Neil Flewitt QC told the court the aggravating factors were that four people had died, and that the fire was started “deliberately rather than recklessly”, in a bedroom where three young children were sleeping.
Previously three forensic investigators all discounted the possibility the fire was started accidentally and ruled out the possibility the fire could have been started by the children.
Allen had a history of starting fires and had often set fire to aerosols as a trick. He had also been involved in lighting fires on wasteland behind his home and had been injured on Bonfire Night 2009.
Defending, David Fish QC, said in mitigation Allen came from “a broken and dysfunctional home”, had never known his father, was not close to his mother and lived either with his stepfather or grandmother.
He told the judge before his abuse of cannabis he was “industrious”, working part time at garage as an apprentice and had a paper round.
He said: “We can talk little about the facts because of his consistent denial.
“The offences were inexplicable, he apparently got on well with the whole Smith family, he personally was happy there and his belongings were in the very bedroom where the fire took place.”
“These offences would not have occurred had he not taken cannabis and alcohol.
“This remains a motiveless offence - no-one on either side can identify a motive.”
Speaking after the case, Det Ch Supt Dermott Horrigan of Lancashire police said: “This was a needless loss of life and is a permanent reminder of the tragic consequences of fooling around with fire.
“We will never know why Dyson did what he did that night but his actions have stolen the lives of four of Michelle’s children. He himself will now spend at least nine years three months behind bars missing out on a huge part of his own life as a result of his inexplicably foolish behaviour.”
Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate for CPS North West Complex Casework Unit said: “No sentence can compensate for the loss of Reece, Holly, Ella and Jordan and I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to their family and friends.”