Tragedy as woman 'set fire to teddy bear' in suicide bid at Portsmouth homeless hostel

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A woman who ‘set fire to her teddy bear’ in a suicide attempt at flats for people with mental health problems raised the alarm warning other people, a court heard.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard a tragic story how April Sharp was not taking her medication for emotionally unstable personality disorder when she set several fires in her room.

Portsmouth Crown Court. Picture: Csar Moreno Huerta

Portsmouth Crown Court. Picture: Csar Moreno Huerta

But when the blaze took hold faster than she anticipated at the block run by charity Two Saints in Herbert Road, Southsea, she told staff and everyone was evacuated.

Sentencing 21-year-old Sharp, who appeared in the dock clutching a toy and teddy, judge Timothy Mousley QC imposed a two-year community order with a 12-month mental health treatment order and 20 rehabilitation activity days.

Addressing Sharp, judge Mousley said: ‘You were very frank with the police, when they questioned you.

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‘You explained how your mental health was at a crisis point and how you were feeling, that day, distressed and overwhelmed. That’s confirmed by the state you were in when the emergency services arrived.

‘You thought that the fire would be it, and it wouldn’t spread very much.’

Judge Mousley added: ‘The fire took hold, you couldn’t put it out. You left your flat, you shouted to other residents to warn them.

‘Then the fire got worse, you got out and sat against a wall.’

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The blaze on January 8 left Two Saints with a £3,319 bill, mostly for cleaning up. The flames were about 6ins high and the fire 2ft in diameter.

About half an hour before the fire she had asked for help from a staff member at the flats but they were dealing with an incident involving another resident.

A firefighter put it out with a ‘small amount of water’.

Prosecutor Martyn Booth said: ‘The danger that presented was extinguished very quickly.’

Sharp has a placement with an adult foster parent. Bridget O’Hagan, mitigating, said: ‘This is somebody who made a cry for help. She’s had a terrible upbringing, terrible upbringing, and significant mental health issues and is doing everything required of her to make sure it doesn’t repeat. Remorse is there.’

The court heard ‘events of late last year’ led to a ‘very severe crisis’ for the defendant.

An inpatient at The Limes, St James’ Hospital, after the fire, Sharp admitted arson reckless as to whether life endangered. She has no previous.