Mental health ward in Portsmouth evacuated as sectioned patient sets fire to own room

The aftermath of the arson at St James's Hospital
The aftermath of the arson at St James's Hospital

A MENTAL health ward was evacuated after a sectioned patient set fire to his bedding after a failed attempt at suicide, a court heard.

Iraqi national Azvar Yusef suffers from post-traumatic disorder and depression after a traumatic journey to the UK and seeing his family die in his home country, a senior medic told Portsmouth Crown Court.

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service picture of the aftermath of the arson

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service picture of the aftermath of the arson

Prosecutor Barry McElduff told how the 44-year-old, of Gamble Road, Buckland, had been admitted to the Hawthorn ward at The Orchards mental health unit, based in the grounds of St James' Hospital, in Locksway Road, Milton, on May 31.

During his voluntary admission he was sectioned in the lead-up to him setting a fire in his room late at night on 2.30am on June 3.

The fire alarm alerted a member of staff monitoring the ward and he rushed to check Yusef’s room.

‘He went to room 19, could see that the door was side open and could see a small fire at the foot of the bed nearest the door,’ Mr McElduff said.

The grounds of St James' Hospital in Portsmouth

The grounds of St James' Hospital in Portsmouth

‘The defendant was in the room, smoke was building up within the room and by this stage the top half of the room was already filled with thick smoke, which was billowing out into the corridor.’

Yusef refused to come out of the room - with staff helping others to escape the blaze.

He was heard to say: ‘I did it because I wanted to die. I’ve seen my family die.’

He was later spotted outside when other patients rounded on him for setting the fire.

But staff quickly realised another patient was trapped in his room - having to alert firefighters who cut away the steel mesh on a window to free him.

In a statement a senior medic from the Solent NHS Trust unit said: ‘This is completely out of the normal for our other patients.

‘This will have a massive impact on how we work. It may have an impact on patients that were due to be discharged.’

Both Yusef, who was spotted with a lighter, and the rescued patient were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.

Yusef admitted arson reckless as to whether life was endangered. In a basis of plea he said he removed the lit sheet from the bed and tried to get a fire extinguisher.

‘I never thought about endangering anyone,’ he said.

Yusef had written a suicide note and given it to the office before a separate attempt to kill himself did not work. He then set the fire.

After hearing evidence from a psychiatrist judge David Melville QC imposed a hospital order with restriction.

It means only the secretary of state can allow Yusef’s release from Ravenswood House Hospital, a medium secure unit in Fareham.