Three men have been convicted in connection with a deliberate house fire which killed a mother and her young son.

Jacob Barnard, Andrew Milne and John Tabakis were each found guilty by a jury which returned its verdict following a six-week trial at Brighton Crown Court on Thursday 27 May.

It follows the incident in Croxden Way, Eastbourne, just before 1am on 10 July, 2018, which tragically claimed the lives of Gina Ingles, 34, and her son Milo Ingles-Bailey, four.

Gina’s partner Toby Jarrett, now 29, managed to escape through a first floor window and sustained serious injuries including severe burns.

Emergency services attended the scene, and firefighters were able to recover a fuel can found still alight immediately outside the front door of the house. This would later become a vital piece of evidence.

A lighter was also recovered close by. DNA from this was attributed to a man who was interviewed and later eliminated from the investigation.

A second contributor of DNA found on the lighter was identified as Jacob Barnard. Vehicle insurance checks revealed he had a traders’ policy covering multiple cars including a Mercedes ML270, a Renault Megane and a Saab 900.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) checks showed the Mercedes had travelled from Hastings to Eastbourne and back around the time of the offence.

The Renault was used several days prior to the offence and considered to have been part of a reconnaissance visit.

On 10 July 2018, just hours after the fire, the Saab was used by Barnard, while John Tabakis drove the Mercedes out of the country.

Eight days later, the Mercedes was written off following a single vehicle collision in Porto, Portgual. It had been driven by another associate of Barnard.

The arrest of John Tabakis

On 6 March 2019, Tabakis was interviewed as a witness. He confirmed his association with Barnard and stated that he would take several vehicles across to Portugal on Barnard’s behalf, but denied taking the Mercedes from Newhaven to Dieppe, France, on 10 July 2018.

Tabakis subsequently left the country, but was later arrested and charged with perverting the course of justice, and released on conditional bail.

The arrest of Jacob Barnard

Barnard left the UK on 16 July 2018. On his return two months later, detectives made a number of attempts to contact him, both visiting his home address and contacting him by phone. Barnard agreed to make an appointment to discuss the investigation, but failed to respond to any further phone calls.

On 11 October 2018, Barnard again left the UK via the Newhaven ferry port. He was then nominated as a suspect.

In December 2018, Barnard was arrested in Portugal for drug offences, unrelated to this investigation, and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.

In December 2019, officers from Sussex Police travel to Portugal and interviewed Mr Barnard. Following negotiations with the Portuguese authorities, Barnard was extradited to the UK on 5 January 2021 and charged with two counts of murder, and one of attempted murder. He was subsequently remanded in custody ahead of the trial.

Meanwhile, detailed examination of telecoms data gathered during the investigation revealed a link between Barnard and one of the victims, Toby Jarrett. This was found via a mutual associate, whom Mr Jarrett owed money to.

A telephone number with the name “Scotty” was found in one of the mobile phones seized from Barnard when he returned to the UK on 12 September 2018, which was subsequently attributed to Andrew Milne.

The data also suggested Barnard had travelled from his home in Winchelsea to Hastings, where his phone was switched off, prior to the deliberate fire. It was later switched back on, close to his home address, after the fire.

Telecoms data also indicated that Barnard and Milne had travelled to the area close to Croxden Way several days prior to the offence; this was believed to be part of a reconnaissance visit.

Both Milne and Tabakis were in frequent contact with Barnard.

The arrest of Andrew Milne

A witness testimony indicated that Milne had assisted Barnard with setting the fire. They are believed to be the two men seen walking away from the fire, as captured on CCTV.

On 10 September 2018, a DNA sample was taken from Milne; this was confirmed as being a match to the DNA recovered from the fuel can.

Intelligence suggested Milne acted as Barnard’s enforcer, collecting unpaid debts, by force if necessary.

On 28 July 2020, Milne was arrested and charged with two counts of murder and one of attempted murder. He was subsequently remanded in custody ahead of the trial.

Following a search of his address, a bag containing gloves, a balaclava, knives and a Taser was found in a shed. Milne’s DNA was found on all items. Two machetes were also discovered. He was further arrested for possession of a prohibited weapon (a Taser).

The court heard how Toby and Gina had an outstanding drugs debt to a third party, which was enforced by two men – now identified as Barnard and Milne – in the form of a deliberate fire.

All three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges put to them, but were all found guilty by jury.

Barnard, 32, unemployed, previously of Spring Steps, Winchelsea; and Milne, 42, a furniture remover, of Wilmington Road, Hastings, have been remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday 28 May.

Tabakis, 31, unemployed, of Cornwallis Gardens, Hastings, was released on bail to be sentenced at a date yet to be set.

Senior Investigating Officer, Gordon Denslow, of the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team, said: “The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the events which tragically cost Gina Ingles and her four-year-old son, Milo, their lives has been very long and very complex.

“At no point have Barnard or Milne accepted responsibility for their actions in the early hours of 10 July 2018, or expressed any remorse or regret.

“Instead, their unfounded denials in the face of compelling evidence have meant that Gina’s and Milo’s family have had to endure a long and painful wait to find out what really happened that night, and why. They have been forced to re-live the terrible loss of their loved ones once again during this trial.

“I am grateful to the court and in particular to the members of the jury who have reached what I have always believed to be the right, and only conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence presented to them over the last six weeks.

“This was a carefully planned, cowardly, but horrific attack carried out by Barnard and Milne in the middle of the night against a defenceless family. Tabakis then knowingly tried to help them get away with their crimes by driving the car they used during the attack to Portugal just hours afterwards.  

“Whilst there is sadly nothing that can ever be said or done to undo the events of that tragic night, I can only hope that this outcome provides some comfort to Gina’s and Milo’s family, who have acted with remarkable patience and dignity throughout this prolonged investigation.

“Lastly, it is right that I thank every single one of my colleagues involved in this challenging investigation for their professionalism, tenacity and commitment throughout. Thank you.”