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Arsonist caused £10,000 damage setting fire to front door of own building

By Thomas Parkes | Stourbridge | Crime | Published:

An arsonist who set fire to the front door of a block of flats where he lived, causing £10,000 worth of damage, has been jailed for four years and two months.

Kenneth Birch stuck toilet paper in the letterbox of the front door of the complex in Stepping Stones, Stourbridge, and set it on fire on August 30 last year.

It spread into the hallway, leaving firefighters forced to evacuate residents of the four flats and rescue the defendant – who lived on the ground floor – through a window, a judge heard.

Birch had called 999 saying there was a fire and claimed not to know how it had started, Mr Matthew Brook, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court.

A fire investigation was carried out at the council-owned site, which determined the blaze had been started by someone inside the flats.

The toilet roll pattern matched what was used in Birch’s apartment, where lighters and a bottle of whiskey were also found.

The 36-year-old was interviewed and initially denied causing the fire, saying he had been alone in his flat when he saw smoke.

He later pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Birch later admitted to feeling distressed over losing his job and facing the gradual breakdown of the long-term relationship with his girlfriend, said Mr Stefan Kolodynski, defending, who added there was also a “strong degree” of attention-seeking in his behaviour.

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The defendant turned to drink in a bid to cope and the crime was carried out in a “perfect storm” of emotion and drink, the court heard.

Birch also had a previous conviction for setting fire to a an outhouse in 2010.

The defendant, of Stepping Stones in Stourbridge, was found to be a “significant” risk to the public after an assessment and will be monitored for four more years on release.

Recorder Geoffrey Kelly said: “It’s a considerable sentence and I hope you take advantage of this period to reflect sensibly on how you can behave in future.”

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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