'Traumatised ' pigeon fancier witnessed 60 birds burn to death in Leeds neighbour's garden fire

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A pigeon fancier has told of the horrifying moment he watched his beloved birds burn to death after a garden fire started by his neighbour raged out of control.

Carol Sellars ignored pleas to put out the bin blaze which spread to the shared back-garden fence in Gipton, and then to the man’s pigeon loft. The owner frantically tried to rescue his pigeons and managed to grab a few to safety, but was beaten back by the flames.

Sellars, 69, admitted a charge of arson reckless as to whether serious damage was caused, having initially denied wrongdoing with the matter set down for trial.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sentenced this week at Leeds Crown Court, a victim impact statement was read out by prosecutor Jennifer Coldham on behalf of the owner. He said: “It has seriously affected me. I loved those pigeons like any person would love their pets.

Sixty pigeons died in the blaze that spread to a loft on Oak Tree Drive in Gipton. (pics by National World / Google Maps)Sixty pigeons died in the blaze that spread to a loft on Oak Tree Drive in Gipton. (pics by National World / Google Maps)
Sixty pigeons died in the blaze that spread to a loft on Oak Tree Drive in Gipton. (pics by National World / Google Maps) | National World / Google Maps

“I felt it was a truly horrific thing to do to my property. I have probably spent thousands of hours with them in my garden. It’s incredibly upsetting. Being burnt alive with no escape is a feeling I can’t describe.”

The court heard that the victim and Sellars were next-door neighbours on Oak Tree Lane, but there had been a “decline” in their relationship. On July 18 last year, with temperatures reaching above 30c, Sellars lit a fire in the metal bin close to the boundary fence shortly before 7pm.

The neighbour asked her to put it out, but his requests were ignored. The fence then caught fire and the neighbour said there were three-foot-high flames coming from the fence.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He rans towards the avery which had caught fire and desperately tried to evacuate the birds, but could only rescue a few before the flames became too intense and his wife dragged him away. He tried to put it out with a hosepipe, and even after firefighters arrived it took them an hour to damp it down.

In total, 60 pigeons perished and the loft was destroyed. It was estimated that the total loss came to more than £10,000.

Mitigating, Charles Blatchford said Sellars had no previous convictions but conceded relations had been strained between herself and the neighbour for a number of years. He said she was now planning to move home but was struggling financially.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Judge Christopher Batty told Sellars: “This is sad. You never intended any of his pigeons to get hurt, I accept that, but they did. Whether you fully accept it or not, it’s a really traumatic situation for him. You can hear just how much it meant to him. You have led a blame-free life, but it is serious and does cross the custody threshold.”

He gave Sellars a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months. He did not ask for compensation given her financial situation.

Related topics: