Portchester arsonist jailed for 6 years after torching her council flat and killing her two dogs

A NIGHTMARE neighbour who torched her council flat and killed her two dogs  because she was due to be evicted has been jailed for six years.

Monday, 17th June 2019, 8:15 am
Updated Monday, 17th June 2019, 11:23 am
Susan Thwaites outside Portsmouth Crown Court for a previous hearing of the trial. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Susan Thwaites's Jack Russells died hiding under her bed as a roaring blaze tore through her first-floor home in Kenwood Road, Portchester on July 24, 2017. 

The 57-year-old and her partner, Jay Hawkins, were dragged to safety by homeless friend Terry Robertson, who Thwaites told about her plan days previously. 

Judge William Ashworth said Thwaites, a 'profound alcoholic' with depression after a tumultuous upbringing and the death of her mother, drank through the night before the arson – even trying to set fire to the bed Mr Hawkins slept in, following an argument.

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Susan Thwaites outside Portsmouth Crown Court for a previous hearing of the trial. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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But the blaze that eventually took hold, and rose to 1,000C, was Thwaites's final attempt at burning a blanket in her living room.

Mr Robertson, who was 44 at the time but has since died, had 'stamped out' the blanket after previous attempts but returned from the bathroom shortly after 10.30am to find an 'impossible' blaze engulfing the room.

Mitigating, Sam Barker said the flat became a 'tinder box' as the fire consumed all of Thwaites's belongings, which were packed into cardboard boxes.

The fire at Susan Thwaites's property on July 24, 2017. Picture: @HampshireFireDogs on Twitter

No other residents were in the building at the time, but water used to tackle the fire seeped through the floor and destroyed one neighbour's flat, including all her late mother's belongings.

The court heard the blaze and its associated damage aggravated existing 'bad blood' between Thwaites and her neighbours, who had already been angered by shouting, swearing and 'comings and goings' in her flat for years.

A handful previously gave evidence at a county court case into Thwaites's eviction, which was due to happen three days after the fire. 

Mr Barker said Thwaites’s 'appalling’ arson occurred at the 'worst moment of her life' and, by killing her dogs, she lost the 'nearest thing she had to children'.

Sentencing, Judge Ashworth added: 'The twin grip of alcohol and self-indulgent risk were the causes of your behaviour, the results of which have been absolutely catastrophic.'

Thwaites was convicted of arson reckless as to whether life was endangered and will serve three years in prison before being released on licence.

She will pay a victim surcharge.