A “drunk” mum who torched her mid-terrace home in an early hours suicide bid which left her friend suffering burns and put her neighbours’ lives in danger, has been jailed for two years.
Burnley Crown Court was told how Angela Gott (42) had fallen out with her then boyfriend and threatened, “I’m setting the house on fire” before starting the large blaze at the property in Whalley Road, Read. There were two seats of fire and the flames took hold after Gott put a cloth on a hob and then threw it into the living room.
Her friend, Andrea Radford (44) was injured, suffering burns to her face, hands and feet and also smoke inhalation. She had tried to get back into the house to rescue her partner, believing, wrongly, he was trapped in the property. The victim was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital.
Gott, who had taken alcohol on top of prescribed medication, was saved from her bedroom by firemen wearing breathing apparatus and owned up to what she had done in the ambulance. The blaze destroyed the kitchen and lounge of the property. It also spread to adjoining houses, causing severe damage and almost 20 firefighters had been called to tackle the flames.
Gott (42), then the tenant of the property, had admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, on February 15th. The hearing was told in the opinion of a psychiatrist it was a genuine suicide attempt and not attention seeking.
Prosecutor Emma Kehoe said throughout the previous day a number of people were present at the house and they had been drinking. It would seem Gott had a row with her boyfriend.
Miss Kehoe continued: “That appears to be the catalyst for what then happened as the defendant is seen to be very drunk by the others in the house and she is also seen having this argument. She is then seen to be throwing things around by Stephen Harrison and saying, ‘I’m setting the house on fire’. She is left alone, the others leave and it is while she is left alone in the property in the early hours it appears she sets fire to the property.”
The prosecutor said the emergency services were alerted by two neighbours, Anna Byrom and James Coonan, out dog walking, who heard screaming from the house and saw it was on fire. They came across Andrea Radford on the street.
Miss Kehoe continued: “The fire started with a cloth on a hob. The defendant throws the cloth into the living room and it takes hold in the living room and spreads. There is no accelerant used.”
The prosecutor went on: “When the fire officers get there, she is trapped in the house and they had to break a window and rescue her. She admits to ambulance technicians she’s set fire to the house.” Miss Kehoe said when interviewed Gott made admissions. The prosecutor said the defendant indicated it was her own life she was after taking, not trying to kill anybody else. Miss Kehoe added: “There clearly were others at danger as a result of her actions. Both adjoining properties were damaged, significantly, and had to be repaired through insurance claims.” The defendant had no previous convictions.
James Heyworth (defending) said: “Angela Gott sits in the dock relieved that nobody was killed or seriously injured. She could not, she instructs me, have lived with herself had that occurred and no doubt that’s a natural human sentiment. She’s at a loss to explain what’s happened and how it happened.”
The barrister said Gott had been having a good time with her friends, one of whom was Andrea Radford. The defendant did not normally drink, but took it with prescribed medication. He continued: “Had she been looking at things rationally, had she not combined drink with medication, she would undoubtedly have made different choices on that particular day.”
Mr Heyworth said Gott had lost everything, but did not seem too bothered about that. He told the court: “She can do no more, in my submission, than to acknowledge she is responsible, to plead guilty at the first opportunity and to come to court with her family and acknowledge she is grateful and grateful to fate ultimately that nobody was seriously injured or killed.”
Sentencing, Judge Beverley Lunt said she had read the pre-sentence and psychiatric reports and letters from Gott’s family and friends. She said there was no question but that the drink the defendant took willingly reacted badly with her medication and had a real effect upon her. The judge continued: “But you knew what you were doing and recalled what you had done when the medical people were dealing with you and immediately told them it was your responsibility, what you had done.”
Judge Lunt told Gott: “You created a very clear and real danger to your neighbours, to anybody who tried to get into that house and of course to the firemen who risked their lives to rescue you from your bedroom and then put out the fire.
“I accept your remorse is genuine and your regret is genuine.”