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Too frail for jail: Arsonist pensioner who caused Telford retirement home evacuation spared prison

By Nick Humphreys | Telford | Crime | Published:

An arsonist pensioner who caused a retirement complex to be evacuated has avoided jail because she “wouldn’t survive” behind bars.

Rose Manor. Photo: Google StreetView.

Linda Lowe, 67, who had an alcohol problem, had a history of bad behaviour and abusing staff at Rose Manor in Ketley’s Millenium Village, so she was told she would be moved to different accommodation.

She didn’t take kindly to the news, and made a series of furious calls to her brother before going up to her room and setting it on fire on June 8, 2018.

The fire brigade was called and staff had to spring into action to help elderly residents evacuate safely while the blaze was brought under control.

Prosecutor Hunter Gray told Shrewsbury Crown Court: “Staff at the care home described her behaviour as ‘up and down’.

"She has a history of being abusive towards care workers as well as previous incidents of damage to the apartment and threats to burn the place down.

 
   
  

“Because of her behaviour, the decision was made that she should be moved to alternative accommodation.

"She made repeated calls to her brother. He said she sounded drunk.

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"She told staff she wasn’t going anywhere, only if it was ‘in a box’ or if the place burned down.”

“She went to her room to pack her belongings. Smoke was seen to be coming out of the room.”

Three fire engines and 17 firefighters were required  and were at the scene for an hour and a half.

The fire was contained to Lowe’s room but she caused £7,500 damage.

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After she was arrested she claimed that the fire must have started accidentally from a cigarette butt landing on the floor, but eventually accepted that it was deliberate.

 
   
  

Lowe, who now stays at Doxey House supported accommodation in Stafford, pleaded guilty to arson.

Curtis Myrie, defending, said that Lowe, who was helped into the dock by a woman and used a walking stick, had lived in supported accommodation since the age of 55, was vulnerable and he added: “She’s a very frail lady”.

Judge Anthony Lowe told her: “It doesn’t need me to spell out the horror of what could’ve happened that day. It may have been that you didn’t intend there to be any consequences, but when people set fire to things, any control goes.”

He also said that evacuating the building would have caused “great difficulty” for the fire crew. 

“The only reason I’m not sending you to prison is that quite frankly I just don’t think you will survive,” he added.

“It’s not the job of the courts to issue a death sentence. I would be doing nobody any favours by sending you to prison.”

He sentenced her to 15 months in prison, suspended for two years.

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Shrewsbury.

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