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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Tuesday, 27 November 2007, 12:59 GMT
Jealous ex jailed for fire death

A jealous ex-lover who started a fire which killed a man and forced his pregnant girlfriend to leap to safety has been jailed for 15 years.

At the High Court in Glasgow John McAvoy, 47, was sentenced to life for the murder of Tony Blair, 21, and the attempted murder of Veronica Miller.

The court heard he placed a washing-up basin filled with petrol outside a flat in Airdrie and set it on fire.

McAvoy had previously been involved in a relationship with Miss Millar, 26.

Mr Blair, 21, who was training to become an engineer in the Merchant Navy, was trapped and died of smoke inhalation.

Miss Miller had to jump out a first floor window to escape the fire.

Tony was a big, gentle giant who was the life and soul of the party and would have helped anybody.
Leslie Blair
Victim's sister

Police officers tried to get into the flat to rescue Mr Blair, but were forced back by the intense heat and smoke.

During a four-day trial, Miss Miller broke down in tears as she told how she was wakened by a smoke alarm in the early hours of the morning.

She said that she jumped out of the window and then crawled to get help.

Her unborn baby was unharmed by the ordeal and he is now aged seven months.

Miss Miller told the court that she had a relationship with McAvoy but it ended in November 2005.

A jury took just 40 minutes to convict McAvoy.

He had denied murdering Mr Blair and attempting to murder Miss Miller on 23 November, 2006.

Before the trial started McAvoy offered to plead guilty to the culpable homicide of Mr Blair, but the Crown refused to accept his plea to the reduced charge.

Mr Blair's sister, Leslie Blair, 28, an officer in the Merchant Navy, said: "McAvoy took Tony's life. He's an evil, cowardly man and I'm glad he's going to be in prison for a long time.

"Tony was a big, gentle giant who was the life and soul of the party and would have helped anybody."

Temporary judge Alastair Stewart QC told McAvoy that he must serve 15 years before being considered for parole.