A woman watched helplessly while her abusive ex-husband set her mother on fire in a petrol attack before burning himself to death.
Susan Lynch, 49, split with her husband Kieren Lynch, 50, but he turned on her when he found out she was in a new relationship.
He started calling members of Susan’s family up to 80 times a day, including her mum Jennifer Cronin, 70, and his daughters.
She was making a cup of tea at her mother’s house when Lynch broke into the garden, with his arm on fire, and threw petrol over Jennifer’s face, head and back.
The hairdresser told the Real Fix podcast – which features real people telling extraordinary stories – how she held her mother while she waited for paramedics.
The day before his attack, he threatened to kill one of his daughters and made abusive calls to Susan’s mum – despite being on bail for a previous attack.
Terrified Susan called police SIX times in just 24 hours, but no arrest was made and Lynch was able to carry out the horrific torching just hours later.
Susan, from Benfleet, Essex, told the podcast: “It was such a quick flash – he just came running down the garden towards her.
”He was dressed in black. He was screaming and shouting abuse.
”He had a large knife in his hand and he had fire on his arm. It all happened so quick.
”He had a jerrycan in his hand and he threw the liquid into my mum’s face and back of her head.
”I thought if he’s coming for me I should get out. I ran as far and fast as I could away from him.
”But as I got to the bottom of the road, on the phone to the police, I realised he wasn’t near me so I started running back and I barged through the neighbours and into the garden.
”Kieren had poured a whole bucket of petrol over himself before I got there.
”My mum was laying on the patio conscious, but she had no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes.
”She was able to talk to me – thank god – really calmly and really coherent.
“She was saying that she was with my dad and that she was ok, and that she loved me.
”I was just holding her.
“I was crying, in such shock, and I don’t think I thought she would pass away.
“I don’t think I took in how much damage there was. She obviously knew but I didn’t take it in.
”It didn’t register with me until all the fire brigade, paramedics and police all started to appear. It became a crime scene and at that point it suddenly became huge.
”Before he was taken to hospital I went over to Kieren I screamed and shouted at him.
“He looked like a raw red piece of meat. His skin was popping and crackling.
”I felt so angry at what he’d done to himself, my mum, and our girls.”
The couple were married for 24 years before Kieren developed a cocaine addiction.
He initially got his life together, but became abusive when he found out Susan was in another relationship.
In January 2018, he sent a string of violent text messages, before going to the family home and smashing up the garden patio with a hammer.
He was arrested for criminal damage but released on bail later that night and told not to contact Susan.
But he continued to call her and her family up to 80 times a day including daughters, Matilda, 17, and Molly, 21.
And the day before the petrol attack, even threatened to kill one of his daughters.
Susan told the weekly podcast: “‘Once he started to call my mum – who was alone and suffered with anxiety – that really got to me, really upset and angered me.
”She’d lost her husband, my dad, just a year beforehand.
”He was getting to me through her.
”He would play games where he’d leave money for me but would leave it in her letterbox instead of just giving it directly to me.
”He was letting me know he wasn’t going away – it was creepy.
”But I never thought he’d go as far as he did, you just don’t imagine that anyone would ever carry out such threats.”
On the morning of the attack, on March 13, 2018, Susan was making a cup of tea at Jennifer’s house when Lynch burst into the garden with his arm alight.
The bricklayer threw petrol over her face, head and back – and they both went up in flames.
Lynch died later that evening at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, after sustaining 97 per cent burns.
Jennifer had suffered 33 per cent surface area burns but never regained consciousness and died 17 days later.
”I still feel shocked and numb now,” Susan said.
“We were a very normal family.
”My girls had had a lovely upbringing and this was just so horrific.”
A jury inquest concluded Jennifer was unlawfully killed while Lynch died by suicide – but poor communication by Essex Police had been a factor.
In March 2019 the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) identified a ‘lack of clarity’ regarding breaches of domestic abuse offences and a lack of ‘positive action’ from officers.
A domestic homicide review criticised the police for allowing Lynch to slip through the net and said his behaviour “amounted to stalking and should have been identified and pursued as such by police”.
Susan is now taking legal action against Essex Police.
She added: ”I would just like the police to take proper responsibility.
”I feel so strongly that this could have been prevented if the police had done their jobs properly.
”I was going through hell and it just wasn’t taken seriously.
”Before the inquest I was angry with Kieren for what he did to my mum, but I came out of it just feeling angry and so let down by the police.
”I’ve been left a single mum, with no help and no family left. It’s not easy.
”Police are meant to serve and protect, but they didn’t protect us at all, not even Kieren.
”I’m disgusted by the failings of the police in all honesty.
”My daughters now have to live with the memory of what their dad did and how their grandma died.
”They’ve had nightmares and flashbacks.
”We miss my mum desperately and just wish things could have been so different to how they turned out.”
Detective Superintendent Neil Pudney said: “Our officers are dedicated to protecting and serving the public in everything they do. In this case an inquest found that we could have done more to have kept Jennifer Cronin safe.
“Eight officers have received management action in relation to record keeping and processing of information.
“Since 2018, we have undertaken a review of our training around response to reports of Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour-based abuse.
“Following this tragic incident we worked closely with the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) who identified no misconduct in respect of the actions of the officers involved.
“I would like to finish by once again offering my condolences to the families of those who sadly lost their lives and I hope that the actions taken offer some form of comfort to them.”
The couple spoke to the team at the Real Fix podcast – which features real life people telling their own extraordinary stories in their own words.
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