In the early morning hours of May 3, 1997, an unknown person poured gasoline through a mailbox — which opened directly into a home on Hemdean Road in Caversham, England. As reported by BBC, the person then threw a lit match through the mailbox and set the home on fire. The occupants of the home, Katie Salvini, her 4-year-old son Zach, and her 7-year-old daughter Emily, were asleep when the house burst into flames. According to reports, Katie and Zach were sleeping together in the same room while Emily was sleeping in her own bedroom.
Authorities estimate the fire started at approximately 1:30 a.m. However, as the blaze spread throughout the home slowly, Unsolved Murders reports nobody was alerted to the fire until approximately 4:00 a.m., when they heard a burglar alarm and the sounds of someone screaming. When neighbors walked outside to see what was wrong, they saw flames coming from the Salvini home.
Emily Salvini died in a fire her mother and brother survived
Although several people attempted to call authorities to the scene, their telephones were not working. It was later determined that someone cut the telephone lines for the entire street. As reported by Unsolved Murders, authorities believe the lines were cut by the same person who set the fire.
Katie Salvini said she was unable to reach Emily Salvini’s room as the fire was too intense. However, as she and Zach Salvini were sleeping in the same room, they were able to escape together through a window with the help of several neighbors. Nevertheless, Katie and Zach both suffered burns, which required several weeks of treatment at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Unsolved Murders reports Emily died before firefighters were able to make it to her room. Her official cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning related to smoke inhalation. As the phone lines were deliberately cut on the same night the fire was set, authorities determined it was “a calculated and pre-planned attack.”
Authorities believe her mother was the intended victim
Although she survived the fire, authorities believe Katie Salvini was the intended victim. In the weeks prior to the deadly blaze, Unsolved Murders reports Katie’s tires were slashed, and the phone lines were cut on at least one other occasion. She was described as an attractive woman who worked at a local bar. Two years prior to moving to the area, she and her husband had separated. However, he was never named as a person of interest or a suspect in the fire.
Instead, authorities believe Katie was being targeted by someone else who she had confronted while defending a friend. According to Unsolved Murders, Katie said law enforcement officials have identified two suspects who they strongly believe may have been involved in the setting the fire. However, authorities said they simply do not have enough evidence to file formal charges.
Katie Salvini said she is still mourning her daughter’s death
Twenty-five years later, the arson and Emily Salvini’s murder remain unsolved. In a 2017 interview with The Reading Chronicle, a spokesman with the Thames Valley Police department said, “We have had a number of calls but we continue to urge anyone with any information to please come forward. We would also like to thank the media and the public for sharing our appeal and reminding people of this horrific crime.”
Katie Salvini said she is thankful she and her son survived the devastating fire. However, she still grieves the loss of her daughter. She said in some ways, she still blames herself for being unable to save Emily. During an interview with The Reading Chronicle, Katie said, “Losing Emily has been the devastation that has eclipsed everything else. Emily deserves justice. … but I don’t think we will ever get closure.”
Emily Salvini’s father and brother are also still dealing with their loss
Emily Salvini’s father, Marco, said he was also devastated by his daughter’s death. As reported by Berkshire Live, Marco said he hopes the person who set the fire that killed Emily will eventually be caught and will pay for the crime they committed. He told the outlet: “I’m sorry, but it’s not normal for a parent to see a child go before the parent. It doesn’t work like that, it should be the other way round.”
Zach Salvini said he has also struggled with his sister’s death. As he was only 3 years old when she died, Zach does not have any memories of her sister that are not associated with the morning she perished in the fire. In an interview with Berkshire Live, Zach said he really “doesn’t like to think about” his sister because all of his memories of her are so closely related to the fire.
The case was never solved
Although it has been more than two decades, authorities are still seeking any information about the person who set the fire that ultimately ended Emily Salvini’s life. In an interview with Berkshire Live, police spokeswoman Sian Hickman said, “We would appeal for anyone with information from that terrible night to contact us … We know there is someone out there who does have that one piece of information we need to finally solve this case. … It is not too late to come forward.”
As reported by Berkshire Live, authorities believe the arsonist and killer was living in the same area where the crime was committed. They also suggested Katie Salvini has, at the very least, seen the person who set the fire and may have actually known them. According to Unsolved Murders, several people were arrested throughout the investigation. However, authorities did not have enough evidence to detain or charge any of those people.