Shrewsbury arsonist put neighbour's life at risk, jury rules

A man put his 74-year-old neighbour's life in danger when he set fire to a newspaper and pushed it through her letterbox, a jury decided.

Shrewsbury arsonist put neighbour's life at risk, jury rules

Simon Blake, 42, formerly of John Street in Shrewsbury but now an inpatient at the Redwood Centre in the town, was ruled unfit to plead at an earlier court hearing to a charge of arson and being reckless as to whether the life of Mrs Jean Kelly was endangered.

A trial of fact was held at Shrewsbury Crown Court and concluded yesterday – meaning that the jury had to decide whether Blake did the act he is accused of or not.

Mrs Kelly, a pensioner, came downstairs after smelling smoke to find the flaming paper hanging through the letter box and burning on to the floor.

It was quickly pulled out by a passer-by who spotted it and only caused damage to the front door, Shrewsbury Crown Court heard. Investigations found fingerprints on the Shrewsbury Ad Mag and the letterbox belonging to Blake, Mrs Kelly's then neighbour in John Street, Castlefields.

Elizabeth Bilbrough, a fingerprint expert for West Mercia Police, told the court that she was in "no doubt" the prints belonged to Blake.

Judge Robin Onions told the jury the courts sentencing powers were very restricted in cases like this.

He added that Blake probably had a Schizophrenic condition and would likely face a hospitalisation order.

He said: "We have no power to imprison someone in these circumstances. I am afraid Mr Blake's condition may be lifelong."

Sentencing will take place on October 23.

The fire caused some damage to Mrs Kelly's front door but was quickly put out.

Mrs Kelly said she was woken at around 7am by someone ringing her doorbell four or five times. By the time she got downstairs no-one was at the door. But the bell went again around an hour later and this time when she got up she could smell smoke.

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