Man jailed over fatal home invasion fire

Jayden Reed has been jailed after pleading guilty to break and enter, and damaging property by fire.
Jayden Reed has been jailed after pleading guilty to break and enter, and damaging property by fire.

A Sydney home invader whose friend accidentally burned to death during their late-night break-in has been jailed for at least three years.

Jayden Reed, 25, pleaded guilty to break and enter, and damaging property by fire, knowing people were in the Elderslie house on June 1, 2019.

His friend Hayden Forrest had kicked in the front door, poured petrol and lit the blaze, before becoming trapped inside and burning to death.

The six occupants, including children, managed to escape, but the house was extensively damaged and the contents destroyed.

Reed also pleaded guilty to, while in the company of Forrest, using an offensive weapon to intimidate the occupants of a car earlier on June 1.

The carpenter asked the judge to take into account a third matter of being in company damaging a Range Rover.

In the NSW District Court on Friday, Judge Christopher O'Brien jailed him for five years with a non-parole period of three years.

While Forrest had been the initiator of the crimes, Reed had been "a willing and enthusiastic" participant, he said.

Forrest had wanted to recover a drug debt, which led to the two friends attacking the innocent occupants of a Range Rover after the pair had been "drinking to intoxication".

Mistakenly believing the car was connected to the debtor, they were armed with a hammer and a knife when they approached the occupants.

Describing their conduct as disgraceful and appalling, the judge said when the victims tried to escape, one of the friends attacked the car a second time.

Later that night, a third man drove them to the Elderslie house before Forrest was seen to kick in the front door while Reed was behind him.

The residents heard the break in, glass smashing and a voice saying "you are all going to die".

Three small fires were lit in the laundry, while petrol was poured in the hallway and media room, where Forrest became trapped by the flames.

Reed, who fled the scene with the waiting driver, said his friend told him he wanted to torch the debtor's car outside.

Reed said he was only in the house for a limited time and hadn't smashed property, yelled threats, poured petrol or lit the blaze.

The judge was satisfied that Forrest started the fires, but Reed had foreseen the possibility his friend would form the intention of doing so intending to cause bodily harm.

Reed knew there were people in the house, "all who were exposed to to grave risk of harm".

"Members of the community are entitled to feel safe and secure in their own home," he said.

He noted victim impact statements which referred to their nightmares and the devastating loss of possessions including photographs.

One occupant, who had been searching for the children, saw Forrest's body completely engulfed in flames.

The judge took into account Reed's mental health and substance abuse issues.

He accepted he was genuinely remorseful and found his prospects for rehabilitation were between reasonable and good.

Australian Associated Press