Former England boxer turned to drugs after discovering he could have been responsible for Sunderland fire that killed his mother and baby sister

Ryan Bolton
Ryan Bolton

A former England boxer's life was shattered when he discovered he could have been responsible for causing a fire that killed his mother and baby sister.

Ryan Bolton was just a toddler when his mum Angela Haggerton, 18, and little sister Rachel, one, died in a blaze at their flat in Ettrick Grove, Sunderland, in May 1997.

The then two-year-old had escaped the blaze, which happened above an Indian takeaway, after his mother's boyfriend jumped from a window with him in his arms.

Since the tragedy, while being brought up by his father, Bolton has represented his country in boxing, held down a good job and been supported by a loving family.

He has never been in trouble with the police.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard at the end of 2015 Bolton discovered the shocking truth that he may have caused the blaze, when he was just a toddler, by playing with a lighter.

The revelation about the lighter had been reported in the press after the tragedy.

As a result, the now 22-year-old turned to drugs, lost his job, ran up a debt to a dealer and was "coerced" into hoarding a stash of 44g cocaine, 16g ecstasy and 279 diazepam tablets, as well as a stun gun and a taser belonging to the supplier.

The illegal haul was discovered when Bolton's home, in Powis Road, Sunderland, was raided on May 23, 2016, and he pleaded guilty to possessing the drugs with intent to supply (back

to the dealer) and having prohibited weapons.

Bolton admitted having a small amount of cannabis for his own use.

He could have faced years behind bars, but Judge Tim Gittins said his case was "exceptional" due to the "powerful mitigation" and suspended the inevitable jail term.

The judge told him: "The only reason you became involved in drugs was the anguish that had compounded the tragedy.

"You were aware of having been brought up lovingly and to the best of his ability by your father, and following the tragic death of your mother and younger sister in a house fire in 1997.

"Immediately before you began to take drugs you had discovered, all be it as a toddler, that you had been responsible. "

The judge told Bolton: "It is difficult, if not impossible, for anyone other than yourself to know how that feels."

Judge Gittins added: "I do not wish to cause you any more anguish but it is important for the public to realise that while ordinarily an immediate sentence of imprisonment, of some length, would follow for assisting a supplier of class A drugs in this way, I think your case is wholly exceptional."

Bolton was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 300 hours unpaid work.

The court heard since his arrest, Bolton has become a father himself, gained further qualifications and found new work.