‘It will go up in flames’

Damien Clarke
Damien Clarke

A man who set his flat on fire with lighter fuel after a row with his ex partner has been locked up.

Damien Clarke, 30, wrongly accused her of having been unfaithful and threatened to set the home alight, telling her “It will go up in flames”.

He splashed fluid on curtains and put a lighter to it.

His ex-partner, who had left with their young child, managed to douse the flames with water from the kitchen.

Clarke was given four years prison by a judge at Preston Crown Court, with five years extended licence to follow.

He had pleaded guilty to arson at the address on Noblett Court, Fleetwood, being reckless whether life was endangered.

The fire dated back to October 20 last year.

Jeremy Grout-Smith, prosecuting, said the defendant’s three year relationship had ended about five weeks earlier. However, they were still living under the same roof at the time of the offence.

He had returned home drunk that morning and admitted having taken amphetamine.

Later that day he was apparently in the pub.

When he got home he spoke of having drunk seven pints. The two began arguing.

Clarke accused her, incorrectly, of having relationships with other men.

During the argument he threatened to burn the home down, saying “Don’t think I won’t. I’ve done it before”.

He then said “It’ll go up in flames”.

She collected her belongings and put the child in its new pram.

When she was ready to leave, Clarke came from the kitchen with a bottle of lighter fluid, or something similar. He started pouring it over curtains.

The woman and child went outside. She watched the defendant spraying fuel around, struggling to light it.

“It suddenly caught fire, causing black smoke to billow from the curtain, which began to melt on to the radiator below”, said Mr Grout-Smith.

“After about a minute the defendant made some sort of attempt to put the fire out, but was unsuccessful.

“He then removed the smoke alarm from the hallway ceiling and kicked it out of the address. At that point she showed great common sense, fearing the fire would spread, she doused the flames using water from the kitchen.”

Damage was limited to the lounge.

In a victim impact statement the woman said “I still can’t get over what Damien did. I could not believe he was capable of doing such an awful thing.”

She has since been rehomed. Paul Robinson, defending, said Clarke, who has been on remand since his arrest, had admitted his involvement when interviewed by the police. He had made good use of his time in custody and had done an alcohol awareness course.

Mr Robinson said: “He realises the enormity of the situation he faces as a result of his behaviour last year.

“He was under a lot of stress and pressure at the time. He took solace in drink and drugs.

“Everything came to a head that evening.

“This offence has been a wake up call to him. He has taken significant steps to address his alcohol problems. He says he has been offered drugs in prison and has refused to take them.”

Judge Jacqueline Beech said that according to a psychiatrist, Clarke had had a fascination with fires from an early age.

Even as a child, he had a propensity to set sweet wrappers alight. In addition to the sentence, the judge made a restraining order.