27 years for Hemel Hempstead builder who battered and stabbed ex-girlfriend’s father and then set him alight

James Carbott
James Carbott

A builder who battered and stabbed his ex-girlfriend’s father and then poured petrol over him and set him alight was today jailed for a minimum of 27 years for his murder.

James Carbott, 31, beat Thomas Baird with a crowbar and stabbed him with a Stanley knife inside his bungalow in Hemel Hempstead.

He left, but returned to destroy evidence by dousing petrol on 63-year-old Mr Baird, who was lying on his doorstep and was either dead or dying. He set his body and the victim’s bungalow alight.

Sentencing him to life at St Albans Crown Court, Judge Andrew Bright QC said: “Your attack was brutal and relentless.”

The jury heard Carbott had split up from Mr Baird’s daughter Kelly in October 2012, five months before the killing.

When Carbott, who had worked as a builder for Mr Baird, moved in with Kelly he had diverted the electricity supply, so that it bypassed the meter.

After he left, Mr Baird wanted him to correct the wiring. He promised to meet Thomas Baird on the Tuesday before he died, but rang to cancel. He was then supposed to call him on the Thursday, but did not.

Prosecutor Stuart Trimmer said the defendant’s behaviour seriously annoyed Mr Baird, who spoke to friends and relatives and threatened violence to Carbott and said he would damage the home where he lived with his mother.

In response to voicemail messages left by Mr Baird, Carbott went to his terraced bungalow in Westerdale, Hemel. There he attacked Mr Baird, who was only 5ft 6ins and weighed just 66 kilos, with a knife and crowbar before setting him alight.

A post mortem examination revealed 17 cuts and stab wounds to the head, face and neck. There were also stab penetrations fracturing the jaw.

Pathologist Dr Nat Carey found internal bleeding in the brain and evidence of blunt impacts, including one very forceful blow to the right side, causing fracturing of the vault and base of the skull.

There was burning to his head, trunk and legs. A lack of soot inhalation suggested Mr Baird was either dead or dying at the time he was set alight.

Carbott was arrested at in the early hours of the following day and told the police: “What’s this got to do with me? I haven’t been anywhere. All I have done is walk my dog. I have been at my mum’s.”

He made no comment in four police interviews, but gave the officers a prepared statement through his solicitor in which he said Mr Baird had left threats to him and his mother on his voicemail.

He said he did not want him threatening his mother and went to Mr Baird’s home. When he went to the door he said Mr Baird appeared with a crowbar and a knife and pushed the knife towards him. He said there was a struggle in which he disarmed him and caused injuries. In the statement Carbott admitted he had started the fire because he was scared.

He said he had left the scene and headed to a farm track on the Redbourn Road near Woodend Farm where he burned his clothes and the petrol and threw the Stanley knife and crow bar in a ditch.

Carbott, of Epping Green, Hemel Hempstead, pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Baird in March last year and also denied arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

But at the end of a trial last month the jury convicted him of murder by a majority of 10 to 2. They unanimously convicted him of the arson charge

Setting a minimum term of 27 years before he can apply for parole, Judge Bright told Carbott, who appeared for sentence via a video link from Bedford jail: “When you lose your temper, as you did that night, you are a very dangerous man.”

After the sentencing, the judge commended Det Con John Rushton for way he presented CCTV and telephone evidence to the jury. He also commended Det Con Neal Hastings who acted as the family liaison officer in the case.