Family ‘left with nothing’ after stray firework gutted London flat - and police close case citing lack of evidence

29 November 2022, 12:02

Ricky Miller and his wife Natasha have told of their devastation after losing their flat in a fire
Ricky Miller and his wife Natasha have told of their devastation after losing their flat in a fire. Picture: LBC

By Kit Heren

A young family lost priceless mementos belonging to a murdered relative after a stray firework set off by rowdy teenagers completely gutted their flat.

Ricky Miller, his wife Natasha and their children Tristan and Imdina are staying in a cramped Travelodge after the firework destroyed their council flat in Roehampton on Saturday, November 12.

“We’re just devastated,” Ricky said. “We’ve been left with nothing.”

They lost private papers and belongings of Ricky’s brother Gary, who was killed in 2000 aged just 21, as well as a dartboard that Ricky began playing with to keep busy after Gary’s death.

The gutted interior of the couple's flat
The gutted interior of the couple's flat. Picture: Supplies

Holding back tears, he told LBC: “My dartboard meant a lot to me when I was a young man.

“When I moved out of home, not long after my brother was killed, I used to suffer with my health a lot - mental health and physical health.

“And I used to play darts on my own. I was very lonely and I was on my own at the time. And I'd just play and I'd try to beat my own scores day in, day out. And now that’s gone.

The firework landed on their balcony and ended up destroying the flat
The firework landed on their balcony and ended up destroying the flat. Picture: Supplied

Among the other belongings lost in the flat were the bikes Ricky had got for his children.

“Our daughter was in love with this beautiful pink bike we got her. It had this white trim around the wheels. She's a proper girly girl. It had a little wooden basket on the front. That’s gone too.”

The family moved into the flat, which they described as a “dream” leaving behind a cramped, mouldy flat last October. This year, they will be homeless at Christmas, and will likely still be staying in the Travelodge.

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The couple will face spending Christmas in a Travelodge
The couple will face spending Christmas in a Travelodge. Picture: Supplied

Their landlords Wandsworth Council offered them an alternative flat right across from their devastated former home, but Ricky said they could not face the constant reminder of the fire.

Works on their home will be going on “indefinitely”, they say the council told them. Ricky and Natasha said there were several empty homes on their mother’s estate, asking why they couldn’t move in there.

Tristan, 4, who has serious health conditions, and Imdina, 7, do not properly understand what has happened, their parents say.

“Tristan keeps on asking me ‘when are we moving back home, Daddy?’,” Ricky said. “I have to tell him that we’re not, but he doesn’t get it.”

The couple lost all of their belongings in the fire
The couple lost all of their belongings in the fire. Picture: Supplied

Police told Ricky and his family that they had closed the case on the firework incident because of a lack of evidence. Ricky said he was disappointed with this and that there were plenty of CCTV cameras around.

The firework landed on their balcony and burned through the glass window, which firefighters told him had “failed”.

The blaze then spread to the inside of the property, destroying everything inside before the fire brigade arrived to put it out.

Luckily for him and his family, they were all out when the terrifying incident took place. Ricky was at a friend’s house and Natasha had taken the children to their grandparents, meaning they were all safe.

“It keeps me up at night thinking ‘what if we had been there? Would we still be alive?’” Ricky said. He added that he now had trouble sleeping and had been off work.

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said: “Following the tragic fire… the family has been provided with emergency temporary accommodation. The council has offered alternative accommodation at a property that was in exceptional condition.

“The property is exactly the same composition and size of their [previous] home… and is situated two blocks away… However, given the location, the tenants feels unsafe and have rejected this offer.

“The tenants have been made aware that due to an acute lack of emergency temporary accommodation options at the Councils disposal that a refusal may see that the family have to stay at the Travelodge for an extended period of time.

“The vacant properties… usually require major works and are not ready to let at this time.”