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Care worker 'started fatal blaze'

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A teenage care home worker killed an elderly resident after she deliberately set fire to her room so she could “act as the heroine”, a court heard on Monday.

Irene Herring, 85, was rescued by firefighters from her top-floor, single-occupancy room at Ancaster Court in Hastings Road, 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.

Rebecca Reasbeck, 20, denies the manslaughter of dementia-sufferer Mrs Herring, who was bedridden and unable to communicate verbally after a series of strokes.

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.

“The defendant then, we say, pretended she could smell smoke and shortly after that a fire alarm sounded.

“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.”

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.

The case was adjourned until 10am on Tuesday.

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