Teenage burns victim returns to Stoke Newington scene a decade on to renew murder appeal
PUBLISHED: 14:04 03 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:20 12 August 2013
A teenage burns victim who suffered horrific injuries in a pub arson attack which claimed the lives of her young cousins a decade ago, has returned to the scene in Allen Road, Stoke Newington, calling for witnesses to track down the perpetrator.
Vicky Knight, 18, was one of five children sleeping above the Prince of Wales pub in Allen Road Stoke Newington when the blaze broke out in the early hours of July 27 2003.
Doctors induced a coma after third and fourth degree burns on 33 per cent of her body caused Miss Knight’s skin to fuse with her bones, and she has undergone skin grafts and operations every year since.
Her uncle Kevin Knight and his wife Kate were running the pub at the time, and their son Charlie, five, died soon after he was rescued by firemen, along with Mrs Knight’s son from a previous marriage, 10-year old Christopher.
Pub regular and plumber, Ronnie Springer, 45, also lost his life after braving the searing heat to run upstairs and save Miss Knight and her 11-year old cousin Denise.
He lowered the two girls to safety from a first floor window but was overcome by the heat and fumes and fell from the window on to a bench below, dying six weeks later.
Joe Knight, Charlie’s brother, survived but still needs treatment for burns.
Police found traces of an accelerant - possibly petrol or white spirit - in the living accommodation doorway where the fire started, and launched a murder hunt.
But no one was convicted in a manslaughter and arson trial in 2005.
Miss Knight returned to the scene on Saturday along with friends and family to remember the fire’s victims on the tenth anniversary.
She said: “People came out of their houses saying they remembered it, it was nice to know that people still remembered the boys and Ronnie.
“I didn’t know Ronnie in person, the night before the fire we went over to the park and he said he couldn’t come because he had to go back to his wife and baby, the next day I saw him and he saved me, it’s just horrible.”
The day brought back many sad memories for Miss Knight, who was woken up during the fire by her cousin Denise.
“I was going in and out of consciousness, and then we got up but we couldn’t open the windows,” she said.
“Charlie went down the stairs through the flames screaming for his mum, and we lost him in the dark, then Ronnie smiled at me and said, “I’ll get you out kid,” he smashed a window and he got me out but then he fell out the window.
“Soon after I heard an explosion and the whole pub went up.
“I remember the bit of road I sat down on and the doors of the houses that firemen knocked on to get me a chair after I was rescued,” she said.
“Nowadays if I smell something burning it reminds me of the pub, I get this image in my head of these flames burning.”
She said the fire has changed her life in a negative and a positive way,
“My charity Scar Quality came out of it and I’m helping other people deal with living with burns.
“But sometimes I get fed up with it and I can’t be bothered to deal with it anymore, like not wanting to go out because of people staring at me and asking me what’s happened.”
Miss Knight’s mum Kim believes if the perpetrator were caught her daughter may gain some closure.
“We are hoping that by bringing this back into the minds of your readers it may spark a memory that didn’t seem significant at the time and maybe someone may come forward,” she said.
“But more importantly the day needed to be remembered for the victims.
“I know they say time heals but people need to remember they were only little boys, and Ronnie Springer had all his life in front of him as well. Whether it jogs someone else’s memory I doubt very much but you never know.”