A drunk who torched a Burnley family home, starting an early-hours fire which could have killed a mother and her two children as they slept, has been locked up for eight years.
Edward John Trickett (32) had met his victim, Angela Livingstone, on a bus the year before and they had become friends, but had fallen out. The dad-of-one, who has a child the same age as one of the youngsters whose life he put at risk, had pushed an accelerant-doused rag into the letter box of the family’s UPVC front door, lighting it and melting the door.
I hate him for what he has done, but I pity him because he must have been in such a dark place to stoop so low as to do what he didVictim
The three occupants, who escaped from the terrace house after being alerted by desperate shouts from neighbour Stacey Lewis and friend Bobby-Jo Taylor, could have died from toxic fumes if the fire had not been discovered, Burnley Crown Court heard.
The hearing was told the defendant, then a carer for his disabled wife, was drinking 10 pints of lager a night, as well as vodka, at the time he struck, last September. And Trickett, then working in a local restaurant, greeted police with a cheery ”good morning” when they found him in a nearby street. Officers discovered a petrol can in the boot of his diesel car which he had parked right outside Mrs Livingstone’s house. Trickett then proceeded to give police three or four different accounts as to why the can was there.
Mrs Livingstone had had an anti-arson device fitted to her front door after a previous letter box fire-raising attempt on her rented home but although it wasn’t “locked” at the time of the attack, it did act as a barrier.
The victim, who was in court as her former friend was sentenced, was to tell police the fire had left her an “emotional wreck” and suffering nightmares. Yet, she said, she still felt pity for the defendant who would be separated from his family while behind bars and she hoped he got the help he needed.
The defendant, from Barr Street, Burnley, admitted arson with intent to endanger life. He had no previous convictions. As he was jailed, Judge Beverley Lunt gave Stacey Lewis and Bobby-Jo Taylor £250 rewards for helping to save the family’s lives.
Prosecutor Mr Stephen Parker told the court Mrs Livingstone lived at the property with her children, aged 19 and two. She had gone to her neighbour’s home on the evening of September 14th for a few drinks before returning home to bed. The neighbours remained up and, about 3-30am, noticed a car pull up outside and saw a man, smoking a cigarette, get something out of the boot.
Mr Parker continued: “A very short time later, they noticed a bright orange glow reflecting on cars outside. They immediately knew something was wrong and between them dialled 999 and spoke to the police, fire brigade and ambulance service, to advise them there was a fire in the street.”
The neighbours went outside and Mrs Livingstone was awoken by shouts of “your house is on fire”. After some confusion, she got her children up and the three of them went downstairs in the smoke-filled property and made their way out of the back of the house to safety.
Police who arrived at the scene found Trickett was the registered keeper of the car parked almost directly outside the victim’s home. Finding the bonnet still warm, officers patrolled the area and found the defendant in Newman Street where he was arrested.
Mr Parker said Mrs Livingstone told police how she met Trickett and his wife on a bus the previous year, but the friendship turned sour after the defendant accused her of stealing from him.
Trickett gave a detailed denial of the allegations to police, claiming a petrol can found in the boot of his car was there as he had given petrol to a lady who had broken down and he had intended to give it to his friend who had a petrol lawn mower, but hadn’t, and was then to give it to a neighbour who had a petrol car. The prosecutor continued: “He was asked why his car was in the vicinity of Cardinal Street and he said he had met a bloke called Nathan, they exchanged addressed and numbers on a piece of paper and that person said if he was ever in the vicinity of Cardinal Street to call on him. He couldn’t find the house, left the car there and decided to walk home. He said he had been at home for about five hours watching television.”
In her impact statement, the victim told how she had nightmares about what could have happened. He continued: ”One of her nightmares is about the youngster being engulfed in fire, another that her oldest son’s bedroom fills with flames.”
Mrs Livingstone said of Trickett: “I hate him for what he has done, but I pity him because he must have been in such a dark place to stoop so low as to do what he did.”
Simon Gurney (for Trickett) said the defendant was of good character and, importantly, had no history of fire-setting. He was a family man, he and his partner had been together for 13 years and married for three and they had a young child. At the time, he was a carer for his wife.
Mr Gurney said there plainly had been a falling-out between the defendant and complainant, who he believed had offended against him.
Mr Gurney said it was clear the defendant had deep-seated issues which would be helped by counselling. He suffered anxiety and depression. The barrister continued: “His pre-sentence report says he has a tendency to hold onto frustrations and perceived difficulties and isn’t able to let go.” The barrister said Trickett had an abusive upbringing, which had had substantial impact upon him.
Mr Gurney told the court Trickett’s excessive use of drink no doubt played a significant part in his offending that night and added: “When arrested, he smelled heavily of alcohol. Clearly, he had been drinking to excess for a number of years.” The barrister added Trickett felt terrible for what he had done and had shown remorse.
Sentencing, Judge Lunt told Trickett there were three reasons why nobody was hurt or killed - the fact that Stacey Lewis and Bobby-Jo Taylor had screamed and shouted to wake the family and called the emergency services, because of the metal plate fixed to the door and because fire fighters had told Mrs Livingstone how to get out of the property.
Judge Lunt said Trickett was now taking medication and no longer drinking. The judge, who had read a letter from the defendant, went on: “It shows a great deal of insight and one can only hope that will remain with you.”
Judge Lunt said: “You have had a damaging upbringing, there is no question about it, but you are 32 now and this is the first time you have committed criminal acts.”
She added: “The damage psychologically to those inside that house will remain for a significant period of time.”
The judge made a 10-year restraining order, to keep the defendant away from his victims.