Court: Arson attack ‘to get friend a new house’

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News from The Peterborough Evening Telegraph,
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TWO arsonists from Peterborough, who squirted petrol through a letterbox to help a friend get rehoused, were jailed for five years on Tuesday (13 March).

Adrian Farrington (30) and Lawrence Sanders (22), both of Whittington, Parnwell, Peterborough, were sentenced for arson recklessly endangering life at Peterborough Crown Court.

They were found guilty after a trial of starting a fire in a flat in Ellindon, Bretton, so that their friend Deri Whitehead would be re-housed by Cross Keys Homes. She is due to be sentenced on March 26 for her part in the crime but the court heard she wanted to be re-housed because she was a victim of sustained domestic abuse from a boyfriend.

Sentencing, Judge Sean Enright said: “Miss Whitehead, your co-defendant, had been the subject of significant domestic violence. The evidence shows that to get the housing association to move her you decided to help her out in this hugely foolish way.”

Farrington and Sanders used a plastic bottle to funnel either petrol or diesel through the letterbox of her flat and set it alight on August 22, 2010. The aim was that the fire would be blamed on Whitehead’s boyfriend.

A passing cyclist spotted the fire and warned the neighbours. The pair were caught when they were overheard boasting about the fire and their fingerprints were found on the bottle.

Lawrence Bruce, defending Sanders, said: “It was ineptly executed. A very small amount of accelerant was poured into the sterile area of the stairway. They would have known it was empty.

“Although there were neighbours undeniably scared by the events, this was a very small scale fire and it was extinguished before the firefighters arrived.”

Sanders also had a year-long suspended sentence for wounding with intent activated and was given a four-week jail term for smashing a door in Phonezone, in Park Road to be served concurrently.

Claire Higgins, Cross Keys Homes’ director of operations, said: “We do all we can to assist people experiencing any form of harassment or abuse but such illegal activity is unacceptable and we never hesitate to take whatever action we can against such behaviour.”

Speaking after the hearing Martin Boome, arson liaison officer for Cambridgeshire Fire and Resecue Service, welcomed the sentence.

He said: “This is a great result and sends a message to arsonists – if you start a fire, we will work with the police to gather evidence and you will be held to account.

“All arson can put lives at risk because fire is unpredictable, but to start a fire in a building is especially dangerous. Once a fire has been started you cannot control it but you will be held responsible for any consequences.”