Arsonist ‘could have killed baby’ in horror blaze

The damage to the first-floor flat in Shaftesbury Road, Southsea on April 2 Picture: Ben Fishwick

The damage to the first-floor flat in Shaftesbury Road, Southsea on April 2 Picture: Ben Fishwick

  • Caroline Clar set fire to flat in terraced house after row with boyfriend
  • Firefighters had to rescue two women, man and a baby from other flats
  • Clark is given hospital order after pleading guilty to arson reckless to whether life endangered
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YOU could have killed a baby – those were the damning words from a judge as he sent a woman to hospital for setting fire to a flat.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard psychiatric nurse Caroline Clark, 35, set two small fires in the lounge of her first-floor flat in Shaftesbury Road, Southsea, at 7am on April 2.

It’s quite possible you could have killed somebody, or you could have killed a baby downstairs in the lower flat

Recorder Frank Abbott

The court heard the fire left the flat needing £58,200 worth of repairs, damaging the floor of Clark’s property and leaving holes in the ceiling of the ground-floor flat, containing a woman and her baby.

Two people in the flat above, Don Brown and Marie Garcia, tried to escape but were confronted with thick black smoke filling the building as they opened their door, prosecutor Tammy Mears said.

Ms Mears added the pair fled to a balcony where firefighters rushed to their aid.

Eventually the smoke was cleared and the couple escaped with firefighters’ help through the building.

Addressing Clark, Recorder Frank Abbott said: ‘It’s quite possible you could have killed somebody, or you could have killed a baby downstairs in the lower flat.’

He imposed a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act, meaning Clark, who was flanked by staff from The Dene in West Sussex, will be sent to the hospital for treatment and not to prison.

Mr Abbott added: ‘It’s all very well for you to say you’ve got lots of problems and say you’ve got traumatic problems. That doesn’t give you an excuse to endanger other people’s lives.’

A man in a nearby flat saw Clark throwing objects out the window.

Reading his statement Ms Mears said he had offered help but was ‘met with a barrage of abuse, her shouting and swearing’.

The fire service arrived at 7am where Clark was helped out the flat but was abusive.

Mr Abbott added: ‘You behaved appallingly when you were arrested and when the fire brigade came to assist you. All those dealing with this case need to be commended. They all acted extremely calmly.’

Clark rowed with her boyfriend before setting the fire but he left before the blaze.

Robyn Murdo-Smith, defending, said there was a ‘catalogue of tragic events’ leading up the fire.

He said they included Clark fearing she could not have children due to an operation, worries that her boyfriend could have cancer, problems at work where she was ultimately dismissed, and the death of her grandmother. He added she was ‘absolutely devastated’.

Clark pleaded guilty to arson reckless as to whether life was endangered.

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