Waterlooville man set fire to woman’s bed after ‘he was stood up’

COURT Stephen Armstrong is charged with arson
COURT Stephen Armstrong is charged with arson

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A SINGLE dad set fire to a woman’s bed because he was upset that she wasn’t interested in him, a court heard.

Stephen Armstrong is accused of causing £21,000 worth of damage to Suzie Chesworth’s home in Waterlooville.

The 54-year-old denies a charge of arson.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Armstrong, who has a teenage daughter, and Miss Chesworth, 24, got to know each other when they lived in the same building in London Road.

Miss Chesworth told the court they started off as ‘neighbourly friends’ and she spent time with his daughter.

But asked how her relationship with Armstrong developed she said: ‘Not very well really.

‘The friendship faded away. It was not normal.’

Prosecutor Richard Withey told the jury that on the night of the blaze, Armstrong had thought they were going to watch a film together in his downstairs flat.

Instead, Miss Chesworth went out and stayed at a friend’s.

The prosecution say Armstrong was annoyed at being stood up and so broke into her flat and set fire to her bed.

Miss Chesworth added: ‘When I found out I was just shocked.’

The jury heard from Carina Marshall, who moved into Miss Chesworth’s flat after she moved out.

She said Armstong confessed to her that he started the fire.

Asked by Mr Withey if he had told her why he did it, Miss Marshall said: ‘Because he felt like she was ungrateful for all the things that he had done.

‘She had taken from him and he hadn’t received anything back.’

Mr Withey said: ‘It seems that Mr Armstrong took rather a shine to her and over this weekend he expected her to be in the flat with him, watching films and drinking vodka.

‘Miss Chesworth didn’t want to do that, so when he had taken his daughter to drop her off for an evening she slipped out and went to her friend’s flat.’

Armstrong dialled 999 to report the fire just after 11pm on March 6 last year.

Fearing someone could be inside, firefighters went in to the burning flat, wearing breathing apparatus.

A fire investigation revealed the flat door had been forced open.

The building was covered by four CCTV cameras, including a hidden one, and Mr Withey said: ‘No-one else could possibly have started this fire. No-one else was seen to go in or out.

‘He had access and was able to do it and the prosecution say was seen and heard to do it.’

(Proceeding)