A MUM-OF-TWO whose home was set on fire by a man obsessed with her says of his two-and-a-half year sentence: ‘It’s not enough.’
Suzie Chesworth says the arson on her home committed by neighbour Stephen Armstrong – who she considered to be a friend – has had a lasting impact on her life.
Single dad Armstrong, lived in the flat below Miss Chesworth and befriended her. He did favours for her, such as buying her food, drink and cigarettes, giving her lifts and doing washing.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard during a trial in which Armstrong denied arson, that he started the blaze in her flat after she spurned his advances.
The 55-year-old caused £21,000 of damage to the 24-year-old’s flat in London Road, Waterlooville after breaking in and setting fire to her bed.
Speaking after the sentencing, Miss Chesworth said: ‘It’s not long enough. It’s had a big impact on my life.’
On the night of the fire, which was started in March last year, Armstrong had wanted to watch a film with Miss Chesworth.
But she went to see a friend instead.
The prosecution said Armstrong, of London Road, Waterlooville, then broke into her flat upstairs where he started the blaze before dialling 999.
He later claimed an arsonist had entered and left the flat via a drainpipe in a move branded ‘ludicrous’ by judge Sarah Munro QC.
Sentencing Armstrong to two-and-a-half years in jail, Judge Munro said it was clear from the evidence that Armstrong harboured feelings for Miss Chesworth.
She said: ‘You by your own admission and to your credit helped out, provided food, drink, cigarettes, you gave lifts and did washing.
‘In my view you expected something in return for those favours.’
Judge Munro added: ‘I’m quite satisfied it was that fact that angered you and you decided to so something to hurt her, although not physically.
‘You were clearly seen and heard on CCTV footage to go up to her flat. There you set fire to her bedding, before going back to your flat and going outside to call the fire brigade.’
Armstrong at first claimed someone was inside the burning flat. This later proved to be false.
Judge Munro said: ‘You put forward the ludicrous suggestion that the arsonist had entered and exited via a drainpipe.’
She added: ‘This was, in fact, a quite deliberate, mean and potentially dangerous act by you, causing significant damage and inconvenience to Miss Chesworth’s property and the landlord.’