Ashley Martin (pictured) set fire to his girlfriend’s house after she left him, an inquest heard
A ‘vengeful’ jilted boyfriend killed himself along with his former girlfriend after taking a £250 murder kit to her home, stabbing her new lover in the heart and setting her bedroom ablaze with petrol, an inquest has heard.
Ashley Martin, 32, couldn’t cope that his first-ever girlfriend Jay Edmunds, 27, ended their relationship on December 28 last year because he was too ‘smothering’ – so killed her in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
The inquest at Boston Enterprise Centre was told how the transport manager set about plotting his revenge, even though he was seemingly unaware that Miss Edmunds had gone back to her old boyfriend Billy Hicks.
Mr Hicks was stabbed in the heart during a struggle before Mr Martin apparently sparked the blaze with the petrol, causing a fireball explosion which blew out the bedroom windows as the fuel vapour exploded.
Police recovered two notes from Mr Martin’s home including one saying, ‘F*** that bitch’.
Detectives found that Mr Martin had hired a Ford Transit van and bought a murder kit consisting of a Bear Grylls lock knife, a hunting knife, a 20 litre jerry can, binoculars, waterproof matches, strong fishing line, a camping stove and gas, a torch, batteries and waterproof matches on New Year’s Eve.
He made the purchases for £253 from an outdoor shop in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Despite being in a diesel van, he also bought 17 litres of petrol from a Shell garage less than half a mile away.
Jay Edmunds (left) died along with her boyfriend Billy Hicks (right) after her ex set fire to the house, an inquest was told
Van driver Miss Edmunds returned home at around 2.30am on New Year’s Day with Mr Hicks, 24, who had previously been in a long relationship with her, and the pair went to her bedroom.
But a short time later, it is believed that Mr Martin climbed through a kitchen window which had been left ajar for the cat at the four bedroom home in Peartree Road, Kirton near Boston, Lincolnshire.
Miss Edmunds’ two housemates were woken by screaming and shouting, as Mr Martin confronted her and his love rival in the bedroom.
The inquest in Boston heard how the fire was so intense that the bedroom collapsed into the living room below where the three badly burned bodies were recovered.
Post-mortem examinations concluded that all three died from smoke inhalation while a contributory factor in the death of Mr Hicks was the life threatening wound to his heart.
The family of Jay Edmunds said after the hearing: ‘Jay was brutally murdered by a person that we trusted. We will never begin to understand why.
Pictured: The blaze tears through the home in Kirton, Lincolnshire, where three people were found dead after the fire
‘We are shocked and horrified by the events that have taken her from us. We miss her every minute of every day, our hearts are broken and our life will never be the same.
‘Jay was vibrant, funny, loving & beautiful. She amused us daily. Her friends & family are all devastated by her loss.’
The family of Billy Hicks added: ‘Billy was one of a kind, gentle, loving, caring and considerate. He had the ability to make anyone he met smile, and was liked by everyone.
Pictured: Police at the scene in Lincolnshire following the fire on New Year’s Day this year
‘He had his whole life in front of him which was cruelly taken away without a thought for his family or his friends.
‘We miss him so, so much and every day is a struggle without him – life will never be the same again.
‘We would like to thank all those involved in this investigation from start to finish and ask the media to respect our privacy, while we continue to grieve.’
One housemate Rachel Braim was trapped behind the locked front door of the house and was saved by two neighbours who smashed the glass pane in the door and dragged her out, the hearing was told.
Natalie Hall who was also living in the house had to jump for her life from her own bedroom window to escape the flames.
The inquest heard how it was likely that Mr Martin would have been charged with two murders if he had survived.
Det Chief Inspector Karl Whiffen of Lincolnshire Police said Mr Martin and Miss Edmunds had spent Christmas with her parents in Devon before she ended their eight month long relationship within minutes of returning with him to his brother’s house in Dunstable.
He said: ‘Information suggests Ashley was overbearing with Jay and would smother her. She decided to end the relationship. The pair had appeared to be distant over Christmas.’
Mr Whiffen said it appeared that Mr Martin drove to Boston where CCTV records showed him walking around the town early on New Year’s Day, peering in to pubs and bars as if he was looking for Miss Edmunds.
The inquest heard how Miss Edmunds had been in a relationship for a number of years with barman Mr Hicks before they split in 2017 and she became the partner of Mr Martin in April last year.
The couple who worked together at a firm delivering Amazon parcels first lived and worked in Norwich before moving in to his brother’s house in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
Miss Hall said Miss Edmunds had previously lived in the house in Kirton which was owned by her parents and had kept on her room, enabling her to return there after she split up with Mr Martin on December 28 last year.
She said: ‘She said that before Christmas she was not happy and that she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. She said the following day that he had had quit his job, went off the rails and went a bit mental.’
Miss Hall fought back tears as she said Mr Hicks that been ‘a common visitor’ to see Miss Edmunds at the house in Kirton since the beginning of December.
She said she returned to the house by coincidence at the same time as Miss Edmunds and Mr Hicks, and posed for a Snapchat video with them in the hallway before they ay all went to bed.
Miss Hall said: ‘I was just drifting off about ten minutes later when I heard banging, shouting and screaming. I jumped out of bed and went straight to Jay’s room. I knocked and shouted, ‘What the f*** is happening?’
‘I presumed Billy and Jay were just arguing. I didn’t know that there was a third person.’
Miss Hall said the door was locked from the inside and she kicked it in vain as she tried to get in.
‘The next minute, the door opens and Ashley was stood there. I had never seen a picture of him but I knew from what Jade had said that it was him. He had a knife and he pointed it at me. He just stood there, He didn’t speak. He had a crazy, angry look on his face.’
She said she could not see Miss Edmunds or Mr Hicks in the room. Miss Braim then came out of her room and pulled her away, taking her to her room and telling her to lock the door.
Miss Hall said she could then hear Miss Braim banging on the door and she became aware of the smell of petrol or gas as her housemate hammered on the door.
She went out again and saw an orange glow from the under the door as a fire started in the room before an explosion which ‘shook the whole house’ a few seconds later.
Miss Hall added: ‘I ran to my room shouting and screaming. I could see that Jay’s room was in flames. The windows had shattered and there was glass everywhere. I threw my phone out, climbed on my window ledge and dropped down.’
Miss Braim said she had got home at 10.30pm after work and was asleep when she was woken by ‘incoherent shouting’ and said Miss Hall standing outside Miss Edmunds’ room.
She said: ‘I could hear a male and female voice and what sounded like someone being thrown around the room. Jay was shouting, “Let me out, stop hitting me, leave me alone”. I heard a male voice which I didn’t recognise which was deep and loud.’
She said she ‘acted on autopilot’ by trying to get in while dialling 999 for police as she heard banging against the walls and on the inside of the door.
Miss Braim added: ‘Then there was a strong smell of fuel. The room went up and I could see flames coming from under the door and the windows exploded.’
She then ran downstairs to find the front door locked as the flames spread around the house and parts of the ceiling began to fall down.
Lincolnshire area coroner Paul Smith recorded conclusions that the deaths of Miss Edmunds and Mr Hicks were unlawful killing, and that the death of Mr Martin was suicide.
He said: ‘It is clear from the evidence that he gave a significant amount of thought and planning to his escapade. He made a number of chilling purchases from the store en route. He brought petrol and I am satisfied that he was searching for Jay.
‘I am satisfied he entered the house in the early hours and confronted Jay and Billy in her room, armed with knives and petrol. There was evidence of assaults on Jay and Billy.
‘There is also ample evidence that they were prevented from leaving the room. He took a large quantity of petrol in the house and the only explanation is that he wanted to use it as an accelerant.’
The coroner added: ‘Following the break up of his relationship, he behaved out of character. I am satisfied he was distraught and I am satisfied that he was unaware of the relationship with Billy hicks until the early hours of January 1.’
Ashley Martin’s brother Peter Martin said that his brother had developed ‘a fascination with the Army’ after being in the Army cadets as a teenager.
He added in a statement that Mr Martin owned a samurai sword with a seven inch handle and a razor sharp 10 inch blade, two crossbows, and items of Army clothing.
He also had a camouflage tent, and a water purifier and used to take himself on camping trip sin the wild, as well as regularly playing the military video game Call of Duty.
Mr Martin said his brother worked for around 14 years as a herdsman on a Norfolk farm since the age of 16, working long hours with few friends.
He said that he had never known him to have a girlfriend during that time and believed that he lost his virginity to a prostitute in Amerstdam when he was aged 28.
The inquest heard how near neighbours Kenneth Wood and Rafal Majchrzak desperately tried to kick in the door of the burning house after seeing Miss Braim trapped inside as other local residents stood around watching the fire.
They used a piece of wood found on the driveway to smash the glass pane and pulled her through, saving her life.
Lincolnshire police constables Michael Redfern, Michael Rooke, Daniel Lewis, Samuel Pick and PC Sharpe bravely rushed into the house after kicking the door in, but were beaten back by flames and the intense heat.