Man jailed over flat arson rescue drama

A police car outside an address at Raikes Parade, Blackpool, where Mark Crawford (below) set fire to his bed and was subsequently jailed for two years
A police car outside an address at Raikes Parade, Blackpool, where Mark Crawford (below) set fire to his bed and was subsequently jailed for two years
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A depressed man who sparked a dramatic rescue when he set his flat ablaze in a suicide bid has been jailed for two years.

Mark Crawford was rescued by two neighbours who kicked his door in and saved him from his burning home.

Mark Crawford, 32, of Raikes Parade, Blackpool was sentenced to2 years in prison at Preston Crown Court for arson

Mark Crawford, 32, of Raikes Parade, Blackpool was sentenced to2 years in prison at Preston Crown Court for arson

Heroic Andrew Walsh and Paul Davies then also helped evacuate other residents from the Raikes Parade property.

At one stage Crawford, who was described as having felt “worthless”, tried to re-enter the building but was stopped by witnesses.

And when a police officer later asked him what had happened, Crawford said: “I lost it, I flipped. I started the fire and I tried to kill myself”.

The 31- year-old had pleaded guilty to a charge of arson, being reckless whether life would be endangered.

Preston Crown Court heard how police went to the house – which had been split into seven flats – on November 23 last year.

Paul Cummings, prosecuting, said the fire caused significant damage to the middle and top floors, effectively destroying the flat where Crawford had lived.

An officer arrived on the scene to see flames coming out of a second floor window. The fire brigade were dealing with the incident.

By that stage the defendant was out of the premises and being given oxygen.

Crawford was placed in an ambulance and an officer was with him.

When asked about what had happened he said he had started the fire in a bid to take his own life.

He made a similar comment when taken into custody.

The court heard how other people living in the same building had heard an alarm.

Two men went to Crawford’s flat, kicked the door in and found the flat ablaze.

“They evicted other residents from the building and rescued the defendant from the burning premises,” Mr Cummings told the court.

“At one stage the defendant had tried to go back into the building before the fire brigade arrived, but was prevented from doing so by the witnesses.”

In police interview the defendant accepted starting the fire. He said he had been drinking and effectively had had an argument with someone else and then decided to start the fire.

He also said he had been on medication and was feeling depressed.

Mark Stephenson, defending, said his client had had a troubled life from a very early age.

“For someone to get so low as to want to harm themselves and end their life must mean someone has given up on any future prospects of living a meaningful life”, the barrister told the court.

“In many ways he appears to have fallen through the cracks. No one appears to have properly diagnosed the difficulties he has.

“The defendant has drifted from one problem to another. He has ultimately succumbed to the crushing pressures and lifestyle he was leading and the difficulties he found himself in that left him feeling worthless, devoid of hope.

“He understands this has to be an immediate custodial sentence. Prison isn’t going to help him, but to prison he must go.

“He has reached a time in his life when he can see no future.

“He was remorseful for what he did when he realised he had endangered the lives of others and caused serious criminal damage”.

Imposing the jail term, the judge, Recorder Roger Farley QC, told Crawford: “You recognise the court really has no option but to send you to prison immediately”.