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Graham HEAPS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Arson - Revenge attack at the home of his former girlfriend's family
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 2, 2008
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: 1965
Victim profile: Francesca Bimpson, 3
Method of murder: Fire (poured petrol through the letterbox of the house)
Location: Liverpool, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on December 7, 2009.  He will be eligible for parole after serving 28 years

The murder of Francesca Bimpson occurred on 2 December 2008 in the Everton district of Liverpool. Shortly after midnight, the Bimpson family's home was set on fire in what investigators determined to be arson. Francesca's mother, father, brother, and two sisters were able to escape from the burning home, but three-year-old Francesca was trapped in a bedroom and later rescued by firefighters. She died in a hospital on 23 December.

Authorities later arrested Graham Heaps in conjunction with the arson, alleging that the arson was an act of retaliation against the family after Francesca's aunt ended a romantic relationship with him weeks earlier.

On 7 December 2009 Heaps was convicted of Francesca Bimpson's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He will be eligible for parole after serving 28 years.


Arsonist who killed three-year-old girl jailed for life

Graham Heaps told he must serve a minimum of 28 years in prison for murdering toddler by setting fire to her family home

By Helen Carter -

December 8, 2009

A man who killed a three-year-old girl in a house fire during a revenge attack at the home of his former girlfriend's family was today jailed for life for murder.

Graham Heaps, a 44-year-old labourer, was told he would not be eligible for parole for at least 28 years after the "wicked, vengeful, and cowardly attack", which killed Francesca Bimpson.

Her parents and three siblings survived the fire with less severe injuries.

Heaps was convicted on Monday by a jury at Liverpool crown court of murdering the girl at her home in Liverpool last December. He was sentenced today.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Henriques, told Heaps: "Your shocking, wicked act of setting fire to a family home with four children asleep in their beds was, in my judgment, motivated by sheer spite.

"It was a vengeful and cowardly attack on a family of six in their own home.

"They are a loving, close unit who did not deserve to be cursed by your unwelcome attention.

"Your intent was, I believe, to burn – that is, to kill – this whole family in their beds as they slept."

Francesca suffered 85% burns when she was unable to escape the smoke and flames and hid underneath a blanket. Petrol had been poured through the letterbox and ignited. She was rescued by firefighters but died from complications as a result of her burns in hospital three weeks later, on 23 December.

The jury heard that Heaps, who had had a relationship with one of Francesca's aunts, Linda Skelhorne, started the fire deliberately. The couple were woken by smoke alarms.

Francesca's father, Kieron Bimpson, 37, jumped from a first-floor window, leaving his panic-stricken partner holding their 17-month-old baby, Anne-Marie.

Although he was injured in the fall, he was able to reach the front of the property and climb on to a porch canopy to try to rescue his eight-year-old daughter, Christina, who shared a bedroom with Francesca.

The children's uncle, Frankie Skelhorne, who lives nearby, heard about the fire and kicked the front door in to find his sister in the main bedroom holding her baby "in a state of panic".

Christina lacked the strength to lift Francesca to safety from the front bedroom, and her father was unable to reach her before the guttering gave way beneath him.

Another sibling, 14-year-old Kieron Bimpson, jumped from a bedroom window. He also was unable to help his sister.

The court heard Heaps was an onlooker at the scene and briefly entered the house in an apparent rescue attempt, during the course of which he set his trousers alight. But he was attempting to destroy petrol on his clothing, and there was no good reason for him to be there.

A fire crew reached the house four minutes after receiving the emergency call. When Francesca was removed from the house, she was breathing faintly but had severe injuries.

Heaps was found lying face down on the lawn outside the house. Nearby was an empty plastic fuel container that was on fire. He had suffered burns and was semi-conscious. He was later cautioned and arrested while in hospital.

It later emerged that he had been in a relationship with Linda Skelhorne that ended acrimoniously. He had stolen a sim card from her mobile phone and, according to the prosecution, "bombarded" her sister Eleanor with obscene text messages and phone calls. Eleanor Skelhorne, 37, broke down while giving evidence against Heaps and the trial was adjourned briefly after she launched a verbal assault at him.

Heaps had told police he had visited a takeaway on the night of the attack, yet CCTV footage disproved this claim, the court heard.

Earlier, the court heard that Heaps had a career of petty crime and burglary stretching back 30 years to when he was a teenager.

Some jurors covered their faces with their hands as victim impact statements telling of the family's grief were read out.

"We are as a family trying to understand the murderous actions of a callous, vengeful, selfish coward who must be severely punished for his heinous crime," part of one statement read.

"The endless flashbacks and helplessness, emotional and physical pain and suffering is almost too much to bear. We went to sleep on a December night looking forward to Christmas and awoke in hell."

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Naylor, of Merseyside police, said the investigation had been traumatic for everyone involved and that the defendant had lied throughout the inquiry and the trial.

He added: "He [Heaps] has never once shown remorse for any of his actions. He has never shown any sympathy to any of the family at all for the trauma he has brought them.

"I hope today's verdict and sentence has been some justice for Francesca and her family."

Outside court, Mr Bimpson said: "There will never be a fitting justice for our baby. Her life was cruelly and prematurely taken by a coward."

He paid tribute to the tremendous courage and dignity of his other children and family.

Francesca's father said he was pleased with the 28-year jail term but added: "A hundred years, a million years, would not be long enough."


Francesca Bimpson: Her final terrifying moments

By Luke Traynor -

January 7, 2009

THE heartbroken parents of murdered tot Francesca Bimpson today told how the little girl hid beneath her blankets as fire raged through the family home.

The three-year-old “innocent angel” died after suffering 90% burns in an arson attack on the Everton semi-detached she shared with her mum, dad, brother and sisters.

Little Francesca lost her fight for life on the day before Christmas Eve, three weeks after petrol was poured through the letterbox of the house in Norwood Grove and set alight.

Today her parents Eleanor Skelhorne and Kieron Bimpson spoke for the first time about their “gorgeous little girl” and appealed for your help in catching the killer.

Mr Bimpson told the ECHO: “Someone must know that the person responsible has robbed the world of an innocent angel. This is such an evil crime.

“They have known there were children in the house and haven’t cared.

“They put Francesca through torture. This was the attempted murder of the whole family – and tragically one of us died.”

The family revealed how Francesca was trapped in her bedroom despite the heroic efforts of her dad, 14-year-old brother, also called Kieron, and uncle Frankie.

They also described the horrific scenes inside the house on the night of December 2 when Francesca, Keiron, sister Christina, eight, Anne Marie, 17 months, were all asleep in bed.

Mr Bimpson said: “We had gone to buy a Christmas tree. When we got home Francesca wanted it in the living room. The children were talking about Christmas.

“Later me and Eleanor were watching TV at 10.30pm and Francesca came back downstairs. We all decided to go to bed at about 11pm.

“I next remember it being about midnight and there being suffocating black smoke and me gasping for air. We opened a bedroom window to try to breathe.

“We tried to get Anne Marie (who sleeps in a cot in the parents’ bedroom) out of the window.

“Eleanor was screaming and the whole staircase was on fire. We were shouting ‘Help. Get the kids’.”

Mr Bimpson jumped out of the window on to a roof breaking his ankle and heel in the process.

He managed to persuade daughter Christina to jump from her bedroom into his arms.

Francesca, who shared a bedroom with her older sister, was at the window holding hands with Christina. But overwhelmed by terror she fled back to her bed.

Her uncle smashed a window to get inside and rescued Anne Marie and Eleanor from the raging flames.

Mr Bimpson added: “We were so disorientated. It felt like it went on for 10 minutes. But it was probably 30 seconds. We were screaming all the time. But nobody was coming.

“Once I’d injured my ankle it was impossible to climb up there. But 30 seconds more and we could have got Francesca out.

“There were a slide and small bikes in the front garden. The person who did this knew there were children in the house. And they put Francesca through torture.”

Devastated mum Eleanor said: “When I was outside I looked up at all the smoke coming from Francesca’s window. I knew she was dead.

“I sometimes wish she had died in the fire because of the three weeks she went through after that. She suffered like hell in hospital. I’d speak to her and say ‘you’re going to be all right baby’.

“She was trying to move her mouth. I knew she wasn’t going to make it.

“We were a normal, happy family and Francesca was just so special.

“If anybody knows anything, they must come forward. Word of mouth gets round and people brag about things.

“But she’s dead now, Francesca’s gone.”

The family lost almost all their possessions in the blaze and are now living in a city hotel while their former home is examined.

They were even had to borrow clothes from relatives because their own were ruined in the blaze.

The family was told they could eventually move back into their home.

But Francesca’s parents said the memories are too painful to return.

After Francesca died Merseyside police launched a murder investigation, describing the killer as a “coward” and “callous”.

Two people were arrested after the arson attack – although one has been ruled out.

The second man, a 43-year-old, is currently on police bail pending inquiries.

He was not interviewed until a fortnight after the blaze because he was under police guard in hospital where he was being treated for burns.

Officers said the family was decent and hard-working with no known disputes that would point towards any motive for the murder.

Detective Superintendent Dave Kelly, of Merseyside police, said: “I would appeal to anyone who has information about who was responsible for this attack.

“A little girl was killed as she was looking forward to Christmas.

“Her family are devastated and if you have any information, I would urge you to search your conscience and come forward so we can bring the offender or offenders to justice.”


Graham Heaps


The victim

Francesca Bimpson, 3.


Francesca Bimpson, 3.



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