Man admits 2003 double murder

A man today pleaded guilty to murdering a woman and her teenage daughter, who died in a house fire almost seven years ago.

37 year old Anthony Tyrone Scrase admitted to the murders of Sally-Anne Baxter-Smith and her 14-year-old daughter, Lois, who died in a fire at their home in Eastbourne.

They both died from smoke inhalation. Two other children, a boy and a girl, escaped from the building without serious
injury via an upstairs window.

The enquiry into their murders was re-opened last year and has been led by Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles from the Sussex Police Major Crime Branch. The case featured on BBC Crimewatch in September 2009.

Scrase was arrested, interviewed and charged with the murders on 27 April this year. He is already a serving prisoner, having received an indeterminate sentence at Hove Crown Court in May 2007, for serious assaults on two police officers in Eastbourne in August 2006.

Outside court, Mr Bowles detailed Scrase's background and described him as a violent man with a lengthy history of offending.

He was serving an indeterminate sentence at the time of his arrest at Lewes Prison in April for assaulting two police officers in Eastbourne in August 2006, the officer disclosed.

Mr Bowles said Scrase attempted to strangle one female officer during the incident, adding that the offence highlighted his propensity for violence.

He told reporters: "Sally-Ann and her daughter died in their home in Beach Road, Eastbourne, in September 2003. Now we know that Scrase perpetrated that violent act on that Saturday morning and it has taken almost seven years to bring him to justice.

"This has been an enormous investigation, an investigation that has been complicated and it has been detailed. It has involved the assistance of a number of different agencies throughout the country but we have finally found out the truth about that terrible fire.''

Mr Bowles said it had been a protracted investigation but officers working on the case vowed "never to give up''.

He added that officers were not able to rely on any forensic or CCTV evidence in the case, saying they helped convict Scrase based on "painstaking'' detective work.

No sound motive could be found for the killings but Scrase, who lived next door but one to the victims, was said to be known to them but not a family friend.

Mr Bowles said: "The motive has always been questionable. However, jealousy, rage and a violent temper feature in the case.''
Brought up in south London, Scrase has a violent and lengthy criminal history, he added.

"What we now know is that he will never again be able to create another victim.''

He will be sentenced at a date which has yet to be fixed.