Arsonist swung pickaxe at neighbour

Burnley Crown Court

Burnley Crown Court

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“DANGEROUS” mentally ill man who torched a flat and attacked a neighbour with a pickaxe has been detained in hospital – and may never be released.

Burnley Crown Court heard how paranoid schizophrenic Darren Matthews confronted his neighbour in his home with a pickaxe following a row.

Matthews, 37, of Gateside Drive, Grange Park, appeared in the doorway of Andrew Lang’s property one night in November 2009 and swung the weapon at him, injuring his arm.

Matthews then fled the scene and threw the pickaxe into a pond in a park.

Police were called in and Matthews was arrested.

During the same month, Matthews was arrested for setting fire to a flat on Forshaw Avenue, Grange Park.

Matthews thought his ex-girlfriend was living with the tenant of the flat and had constantly telephoned the police saying he was going to burn the house down.

Mark Lamberty, prosecuting, said the fire had caused £6,000 of damage.

The blaze had two seats – in the lounge where clothes had been put in front of the electric fire and in the kitchen where clothing had been put on the hob, which had been lit.

A plank of wood had been placed against the kitchen door to make sure it stayed open, to encourage ignition to the whole house.

When the defendant was arrested, he denied starting the fire but owned up to arson during a trial in June last year.

Hallucinations

Matthews is now a patient at medium secure Guild Lodge, in Preston. He was given a hospital order and cannot be released until the Secretary of State for Justice agrees. Even if released, he could be instantly recalled.

A consultant forensic psychiatrist from Guild Lodge told the court the defendant had distressing auditory hallucinations and heard voices telling him to do things.

He said Matthews now understood he suffered from a mental illness which had contributed to his criminal behaviour in the past.

Matthews has a long record including committing wounding, assault and grievous bodily harm. He had previously been sent to jail for making hoax emergency calls.

Doctors believe Matthews, who had earlier been convicted of aggravated burglary at Preston Crown Court, has possibly suffered from psychotic illness for a decade.

He was said to suffer delusions and believed people, mainly in the criminal justice system and the police, were conspiring against him.

Judge Beverley Lunt ruled he was a dangerous offender. She said she was satisfied he had a mental disorder and she had grave concerns about him being released.

She told Matthews: “It seems unlikely to me you will ever be released.

“But I will leave that to the medical profession.”