Suicide bid arsonist jailed

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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A man who torched his rented home in a suicide bid, reducing the front of it to a shell, has been jailed for four years.

David Donohoe managed to escape his burning house on Hill Street, South Shore, but his dog perished in the blaze – the force of which was so powerful it blew the windows out of the premises.

Preston Crown Court 
also heard that a family-of-five next door were forced to flee their home and ended up having to borrow money to 
replace items they lost.

Donohoe, 59, had pleaded guilty to a charge of arson being reckless whether life would be endangered.

The fire was discovered in the early hours of February 5 this year.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said the next door neighbour was woken by his partner smelling burning plastic.

On going into a child’s bedroom, there was a strong smell of smoke and the child ended up being taken out coughing.

They realised the fire was coming from next door and was mainly in the front lounge.

“The man could see someone apparently within the defendant’s address, banging and shouting to get out. A dog could be heard in some distress,” added Mr McEntee.

The previous evening Donohue had argued with his wife over “something and nothing”.

She ended up going to stay at a friend’s for a few hours.

That friend alerted her to the damage and she returned home, just as the windows blew out of the house.

Donohoe was found in a doorway nearby, having managed to get out.

As a result of what happened, the neighbours had had to borrow money to deal with the effects of smoke damage.

The man had been troubled by thoughts of what might have happened, had he not been woken by his wife or a child, the court heard.

Donohoe told police he had started the fire by setting light to curtains in the front room.

He had been feeling suicidal, but then was overcome by smoke. The front of the house had been completely destroyed, said the judge.

There had been damage into the hallway and up through the stairs as well as smoke going through a loft space.

Waheed Omran-Baber, defending, said Donohoe accepted full responsibility for his actions.

He had been unable to cope with the loss of his parents and had stopped taking his anti depressant medication.

His partner walked out when they had an argument.

Mr Omran-Baber told the court: “He feared she was going to divorce him. Again, he had feelings of his inability to cope on his own. He simply wanted to commit suicide.

“He had made previous attempts at committing suicide.

“He didn’t intend to harm anybody else. He was simply preoccupied with his own feelings at the time.

“For most of his life he has had a mild depressive illness. He is perfectly well aware that there is only one sentence for him and that is custody”.

Judge Stuart Baker told Donohoe he had caused very substantial damage, which could have had fatal consequences, had the emergency services not arrived when they did.

The judge said only a substantial term of imprisonment could be passed.