Teen care home worker 'killed elderly resident after setting room ablaze so she could act the heroine'
- Care home worker 'set room on fire', then 'pretended she could smell smoke to get attention'
- Irene Herring, 85, died from smoke inhalation
Last updated at 6:52 PM on 24th October 2011
Irene Herring, 85, was rescued by firefighters from her top-floor, single-occupancy room at Ancaster Court in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, on February 1 2009.
She was treated by paramedics and taken to the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, but died of pneumonia brought on by smoke inhalation the following day.
Accused: Rebecca Reasbeck, left, pictured in March, faces a charge of manslaughter after allegedly starting a care home fire which killed resident Irene Herring, 85, right
Opening the Crown's case at Lewes Crown Court, prosecutor Anthony Haycroft said: 'In summary, we allege that the defendant deliberately set fire to Irene's bedroom in two separate places.
'We say this was because she did it - set the fire - to get attention and act as the heroine.
'Unfortunately, the fire got out of control. It generated so much smoke, no-one could get to Irene and she died as a result.'
He said Reasbeck, who worked in the Bupa-run care home's laundry room at weekends and was a kitchen assistant during the week, was aged 17 at the time of the incident, which took place on a Sunday.
Arson attack: A police officer stands outside Ancaster Court in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, following the fire that claimed Mrs Herring's life
Reasbeck had been working in the laundry room on the ground floor while Mrs Herring's room was on the top floor of the three-storey building and diagonally opposite from it, he added.
At around 9.45am, nurse Sindhu George and care assistant Jimmy Fyffe passed Reasbeck coming towards them from the direction of Mrs Herring's room, the court heard.
She told them she had smelled a plastic burning smell from down in the laundry room and had come to investigate.
Mr Haycroft said that they both sniffed the air with Ms George saying she could 'smell something, but only very faintly,' while Mr Fyffe smelt nothing.
Rebecca Reasbeck's case at Lewes Crown Court is a re-trial, after she was originally accused of murder
All the remaining residents were then evacuated and the fire service was called, arriving minutes later at 9.58am.
Mr Haycroft said that in the meantime Steven Walter, another care assistant who had returned upstairs, noticed Reasbeck outside Mrs Herring's room. She was heard saying 'oh my God' and seemed 'panicked'.
'She did this to get attention and act as the heroine'
Anthony Haycroft, prosecuting
She also went directly against the advice given by opening the door despite Mr Walter telling her not to.
Mr Haycroft said she told him they had to get Mrs Herring out, but they were met with a wall of thick black smoke and could not enter the room.
Firefighters then arrived and rescued Mrs Herring from the room and she was rushed to hospital where she died at 6.45am the next day with her husband by her side.
Mr Haycroft said that fire crews then used their hoses to dampen the flames without disturbing the scene, and it was found that the fire had been set in two places.
A cushion from a commode chair in the room was found under the spare bed and burn marks on it were found to correspond to those on the commode seat.
The second fire was found to have started on an electric reclining chair in the room, the court heard.
The court heard a post-mortem examination on non-smoker Mrs Herring found she had no drugs or alcohol in her system, so there was no suggestion she had been drugged.
Mr Haycroft told jurors the case was a re-trial and Reasbeck, of London Road, St Leonards, had originally been charged with murder.