A woman has told how she watched her jealous ex-husband set himself and her mother alight – killing them both.
Susan Lynch, 49, split with husband of 24 years Kieren Lynch, 50, after he spiralled into cocaine addiction.
He appeared to be getting his life back on track but became threatening when Susan got together with another man – calling her and her family up to 80 times a day.
The day before his attack, he threatened to kill one of his daughters and made abusive calls to Susan’s mum Jennifer Cronin, 70 – 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 was making a cup of tea at Jennifer’s house and gazing out the kitchen window 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.
A jury inquest concluded Jennifer was unlawfully killed while Lynch died by suicide – but poor communication by Essex Police had been a factor.
Susan, a hairdresser, from Benfleet, Essex, said: “Watching my mum get burned alive by my ex-husband – and being helpless to intervene – was exceptionally disturbing.
“She didn’t deserve such a painful and traumatic death.
“Mum still had lots of years to live and plenty of love to give to her grandchildren.
”My poor girls have got to live with this forever.
”Thankfully they have lovely memories of the person their dad used to be.”
The couple were married for 24 years and had two children before Kieren developed a cocaine addiction.
Despite initially trying to help her husband, his volatile behaviour became too much and Susan ended the relationship.
She said Kieren appeared to get ‘back on track’ but a year later, when they met to discuss co-parenting, she revealed she was in a new relationship – and he ‘saw red’.
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 with conditions not to contact Susan.
Lynch continued to send violent messages and called Susan and her family up to 80 times a day.
Susan reported it to the police, but Lynch was never re-arrested.
”Each time I called, someone came to take a statement, it would take hours, they would promise they’d get it sorted, and then nothing ever came of it,” Susan said.
”Each time I called it was as if it was an entirely new case, so the police never put together a full picture of how badly things were escalating.
”Basic things like filling in a form to record the presence of children in the house which should have prioritised our case and had it escalated to a more serious level, wasn’t done.
”Or the fact that the situation wasn’t properly recorded on a handover by one officer which resulted in Kieren not being arrested and leaving him free to go onto do what he did.”
Susan, who is mum to Matilda, 17, and Molly, 21, took the day off work to go and comfort her vulnerable mum, who was frightened due to Lynch’s threats.
After arriving at her mum’s house in South Benfleet, Essex, on March 13, 2018, Jennifer took the dog into the back garden.
Susan recalled: “I was making a cup of tea standing at the window.
”In that moment Kieren came running down the garden, screaming his head off, shouting abuse.
”He was dressed all in black and his arm was on fire.
“He headed straight for her and she just cowered as he threw what I now know to be petrol – all over her: her face, her head and even her back.
”I was screaming and called 999 as I ran from the house.
”I was on the phone to the police the whole time, I tried to get back into the garden to see my mum but the neighbours were there too and tried to stop me from seeing what he’d done.
”By the time I’d got there Kieren had already set himself fully on fire too, he was slumped against a wall, so badly burnt, but I didn’t care.
”I went to my mum, she was totally bald, all her hair had been burnt off.
”But she was so serene, she told me she loved me.
“I think she knew she was dying.
”We just kept talking and talking until the paramedics arrived.
”As they tended to my mum I went over and just screamed and screamed at Kieron- I called him an animal – I was beside myself.”
Lynch died later that evening.
Jennifer was airlifted to a specialist burns unit at Broomfield Hospital but never recovered.
The week-long jury inquest into their deaths in January 2019 lasted for one week and concluded Jennifer was unlawfully killed while Lynch died by suicide.
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.”