Woman who ‘nearly died’ in Gosport flat blaze ‘loves arson accused’ jurors told

A forensics officer at the flat in Jervis Drive in Gosport. Picture: Steve Deeks
A forensics officer at the flat in Jervis Drive in Gosport. Picture: Steve Deeks

A WOMAN who was forced to jump from a Gosport window following a ferocious blaze allegedly started by her boyfriend wrote him heartfelt love letters in jail, a court heard.

Portsmouth Crown Court was told how Paula Croucher, her son John Dine and his partner Natalie Traynor, along with their four-year-old daughter, ‘nearly died’ in the fire before escaping to safety.

Mr Dine’s former school friend Scott Mawdsley, 29, is alleged to have stormed over to the Jervis Drive flat demanding to see Ms Croucher – Mr Dine’s mum – before setting it on fire and fleeing the scene.

Mawdsley, of Greenlea Grove, Gosport, is on trial for arson with intent to endanger life and arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered after the blaze at the block in Gosport on October 24 last year. He denies the charges.

The court heard how drunk Mawdsley stormed over to Mr Dine’s flat before ‘banging’ and ‘kicking’ the door.

He was then said to have started the inferno leaving all four desperate people trapped inside ‘screaming for help’ before they escaped relatively unharmed but needing treatment at hospital for smoke inhalation.

Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer said: ‘They couldn’t get out the door and retreated into the flat as the fire kept burning. 

‘They evacuated through a window on the first floor including dropping a four-year-old girl out who had to be caught by neighbours.

‘We say the fire was deliberately started to endanger the lives of those inside.’

Giving evidence from behind a curtain, Ms Croucher told the court she had seen her lover in the street after spending a night away from him following an argument.

She described the carnage as she attempted to escape the flat. ‘I went to the front door but couldn’t open it. There was smoke pouring in through the letterbox.

‘We went into the dining room and opened the window and called for help. Luckily there were neighbours downstairs and we were able to get out the window.’

She confirmed she had penned love letters and cards on his birthday and for Valentine’s Day while he waited for his trial.

One note, read out in court, said: ‘You are my rock. I love you so much. I’m always thinking about you.’

In another she said she would be ‘here when you get out (of jail)’ before adding: ‘When you get home we will have to get away. I have money.’

The court heard from Mr Dine, who said how Mawdsley was acting hostile after coming over to the flat on a variety of occasions throughout the day.

Mr Dine said: ‘(Mawdsley) was coming over to the flat asking where my mum was. He was asking for money. He was banging and kicking the door but we just ignored him. I could see him through the spyhole in the door.’

After hearing ‘fiddling’ Mr Dine said he saw smoke pouring into the flat with a fire engulfing the front door.

His partner Ms Traynor said: ‘We could have died’. She said: ‘It was unbearable. We had to open the window. I was screaming for help and our daughter was very distressed and crying.’

Proceeding