30/08/2005

Police appeal for information in baby death arson attack

Police have issued an appeal for information after a baby died and his mother was injured in an arson attack on a house in Newcastle.

Four-month-old Alexander Gallon died in hospital, following the attack at the house in Cowgate, Newcastle on Sunday night.

His mother, 21-year-old Danielle Wails, was also taken to hospital, suffering from minor injuries, but was later released.

Police said that Miss Wails was at home with Alexander on Sunday night, when two men, dressed in black, entered the house. They punched and kicked Danielle and she passed out. When she came round, she found that she was in the living room and the sofa had been set on fire.

Danielle, whose hands had been bound with telephone cord, screamed for help, but neighbours were unable to break down the door. She eventually managed to dial 999 on the phone with her tongue.

Fire crews arrived and broke down the door and rescued Danielle and Alexander, who was found lying on the living room floor. They were both taken to Newcastle General Hospital, where Alexander was later pronounced dead.

Miss Wails is understood to be staying with relatives.

At a press conference on Tuesday, police said that a murder inquiry had been launched and appealed for information from the public. They said that the attackers had to have known that there was a baby in the house. They said that Alexander had been in the same room as his mother when the fire was started and he had been crying during the attack.

Speaking at the press conference, Detective Superintendent Barbara Franklin of Northumbria Police, said: “This is a horrific incident, which has left a baby dead and a young mother injured. It’s difficult to comprehend the wickedness of someone who could do such a thing.”

Police said that the inquiry was in its early stages and that it was too soon to establish a motive for the attack.

A post mortem was due to be carried out on Alexander on Tuesday.

It was reported that Miss Wails had only been living at the house, owned by the St Cuthbert’s Care charity, which houses vulnerable young mothers, for a few weeks.

On Tuesday afternoon, police confirmed that a woman in her early 20s, reported not to be the mother, had been arrested and bailed in connection with the enquiry.

(KMcA/SP)

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