Arsonist mum set blaze then blamed ex for starting it

Arsonist Gemma Keefe, 29, of Holbrook Road, Fareham, was handed a community order after pleading guilty to arson when she set fire to an internal store room at her home in Patchway Drive, Fareham, when her three-year-old son was at home. She said other people set the blaze but later pleaded guilty to arson leaving Portsmouth Crown Court.
Arsonist Gemma Keefe, 29, of Holbrook Road, Fareham, was handed a community order after pleading guilty to arson when she set fire to an internal store room at her home in Patchway Drive, Fareham, when her three-year-old son was at home. She said other people set the blaze but later pleaded guilty to arson leaving Portsmouth Crown Court.
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  • Mum set fire to internal storage cupboard at her home then blamed estranged husband and his girlfriend
  • Detectives quizzed the pair but soon realised Gemma Keefe was responsible
  • Now she has avoided jail so she can continue mental health treatment

ARSONIST Gemma Keefe set fire to her own home while her three-year-old son was inside – and blamed her husband.

Keefe, 29, blamed her estranged partner and his new girlfriend for the blaze sparking a probe, a court heard.

Gemma Keefe outside her home when she blamed others for the fire

Gemma Keefe outside her home when she blamed others for the fire

She even called The News claiming her house had been targeted by an arsonist who damaged her smoke alarm shortly after setting the fire in an internal storage area at her former naval married quarters home.

But Portsmouth Crown Court heard when police found those she accused had alibis, Keefe was arrested for the arson at Patchway Drive, Fareham.

Keefe who was suffering from mental health issues, has avoided jail so she can continue with treatment.

Richard Cherrill, prosecuting, said: ‘Police received a call in the morning from this defendant saying that somebody had cut the wires of her smoke alarm in the kitchen.’

You must realise that any fire in any property where there are people about is a very serious matter, and of course one of the serious factors here is that your son, then aged three, was living with you

Judge Roger Hetherington

He added: ‘The police did not respond to that call because there had been a number of calls of a similar type that resulted in nothing.’

Keefe was with two friends, Coral Gray and Michael Craddock and her three-year-old son Ryan, the court heard.

Mr Cherrill added she said: ‘Someone is going to burn my house down.’

She then went to a neighbour and asked him to call 999.

Coral Gray being treated for smoke inhalation after the blaze

Coral Gray being treated for smoke inhalation after the blaze

He went to the house, could smell smoke but could not see any fire in the cupboard full of junk and left.

Keefe, now of Holbrook Road, Fareham, then went to her other neighbour and they called firefighters.

Her young son Ryan was taken out of the house. Coral opened the store room door and had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters put the blaze out and the cause was found to be a person having used a naked flame on combustible materials, Mr Cherrill said.

Items thrown out of the internal stoarge cupboard where Gemma Keefe started the fire

Items thrown out of the internal stoarge cupboard where Gemma Keefe started the fire

He added: ‘Keefe was spoken to by the police and she claimed either her estranged husband or his new partner had been responsible.

‘Their whereabouts at the relevant time were checked and they clearly had alibis making it clear there were not responsible.’

But nearly two years after posing for a photo for The News outside the house she pleaded guilty to arson. She had been charged with arson reckless as to endanger life but this was dropped.

Sentencing, judge Roger Hetherington handed her a 12-month community order with 12 months of supervision with 12 sessions of a women’s group.

Addressing Keefe, he said: ‘Unfortunately your marriage broke down in June 2014 and it’s in the reports that you soon became emotionally distressed about that and started behaving for a period in a way which was indicative of a very fragile and unstable state of mind.

‘The fire took hold in the cupboard but fortunately didn’t extend any further and you yourself had alerted someone to the face of the fire.

The smoke alarm which had been fitted at Gemma Keefe's home

The smoke alarm which had been fitted at Gemma Keefe's home

‘It took a little time before anyone was able to establish there was indeed a fire and it was quickly put out.

‘Nevertheless you must realise that any fire in any property where there are people about is a very serious matter, and of course one of the serious factors here is that your son, then aged three, was living with you.’

Daniel Reilly, defending, said Keefe’s mental health had improved.

He said: ‘Those witnesses who know her well, and many over a significant period of time, describe her as someone as an ordinarily kind, caring, considerate person.’

He added: ‘She is described as a devoted mother, that’s something that comes from many, if not all.’

Chantelle Lewis, 26, from Fareham who Gemma Keefe wrongly accused of starting the fire

Chantelle Lewis, 26, from Fareham who Gemma Keefe wrongly accused of starting the fire