Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Jailed for Five Years for Blaze That Left Residents Trapped

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Jailed for Five Years for Blaze That Left Residents Trapped

Article excerpt

Byline: GARETH LIGHTFOOT @GazetteCourt

A DRUG-ADDLED arsonist who set fire to flats, trapping terrified residents, has been jailed for five years.

Homeless John Curran, 39, set fire to a stairway carpet at the home which accommodated five people on three floors, next to a building which held 49 people, because he was irritated at being asked to leave, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Then he hung around the scene saying "people are going to die" while the blaze took hold and black smoke poured out. The homes were for people who needed help on Park Road North, central Middlesbrough.

Curran, who had taken cocaine and sleeping tablets, then went to a security officer after a fire alarm sounded, saying: "There's a fire up there. People are going to die. It's on you if they die."

Prosecutor Jenny Haigh said "agitated" Curran led the officer to the home, from which thick black smoke was billowing, at about 5.30am to 6am, on August 3. As the officer shouted to get residents out, Curran pushed behind him saying: "You need to get these people out. They're going to die."

Third-floor residents were trapped in their rooms, with the only exit a 30ft drop to the ground. One resident woke at about 6am to see smoke coming under his door and peeked out to see flames coming up the stairs.

He was rescued by firefighters but said it would have been another 30 seconds before he would have been forced to jump from a window.

One tenant saw flames on a banister and felt "unbearable" heat. He tried to help and alert others, saw Curran in the hallway and shouted at him to "move".

Curran told him he had to save people, but the resident said: "If I went upstairs I would have burned to death."

The resident told how he felt anxious, jumpy and scared since, thinking he could have been killed.

It worsened his mental health with depression, paranoia, thoughts of selfharm and suicide, sleepless nights, flashbacks and panic attacks. …

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