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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Life sentence for Cumbrian arsonist

A serial arsonist has been jailed for life.

Arsonist John Brown photo
John Brown

John Brown, 48, of Windebrowe Avenue, Keswick, will serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars after a judge said he posed “significant risk” to the public.

Brown, who denied all charges, was convicted of 16 arson attacks near his home following a 10-day trial at Carlisle Crown Court.

He was found guilty of 10 arson charges and six of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and was cleared of five alternative charges of arson with intent to endanger life.

Brown started the fires between March 2011 and January 2013.

Eight were lit in rubbish bins outside commercial premises in the town centre and Brown also set light to a caravan, a car and several houses.

Judge Peter Hughes QC described three of the house fires as particularly serious.

The first was at the home of Lynda Stobbart, whose pregnant daughter was home and three young children were asleep in bed.

The second involved a blaze which was set at the home of an 88-year-old woman, who was unaware of what was happening.

Judge Hughes said that had it not been for the actions of Lee Newton and Mike Charlton, she could have died.

But the morning after, Brown claimed to have helped rescue her and had even accepted £40 as a thank you from the victim’s son for saving her life.

Brown also started a fire in a garage directly underneath the bedroom of Ryan Forsyth, 17.

A car in the garage exploded after the petrol tank caught light but Ryan and his family managed to escape.

The incident had happened shortly before Christmas when many of the local firefighters were out celebrating.

It meant crews had to be scrambled from other parts of Cumbria and by the time the blaze was brought under control the house was gutted and the family had lost everything.

Police became suspicious of Brown because so many of the fires occurred near his home.

Others were started at the Old Keswickian fish and chip shop where he used to work, The Inn at Keswick, the Cotswold camping store, the Golden Lion, the Oddfellows Arms, and three at the Spar shop in Shorley Lane.

The judge said it was not clear why Brown started the fires and there was no evidence of a grudge or desire for retribution.

He agreed with two psychiatrists who deemed Brown at high risk of repeating the attacks if he were released into the community and that he posed significant risk to the public.

Judge Hughes told Brown he would not be eligible for parole for nine years.

The judge praised Mr Newton, Mr Charlton and Mr Forsyth and said they would each receive the £250 High Sheriff of Cumbria awards.

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