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Arson menace is spared jail
7:30pm Wednesday 15th January 2014 in Echo News
A PLASTERER who torched his pregnant partner's home has been spared jail.
William Angus, 28, of no fixed address, admitted a charge of simple arson in December after setting fire to the top-floor maisonette on Craylands, in Basildon, on Friday, June 28 2013.
50 people were evacuated from their home and the blaze caused around £140,000 worth of damage to the property.
Angus, who appeared at Basildon Crown Court via video-link, admitted starting the fire to police after he was arrested the following morning.
He said he had 'flicked' a lighter at the sofa, which had started the blaze, after an argument with his girlfriend Abby Hockwood, who was then 38-weeks pregnant.
Angus was given a 20-month sentence, suspended for 18 months.
He will be monitored via an electronic curfew between 8pm and 6am for the next four months and will have to carry out 150 hours unpaid work.
He will also be signed up to a thinking skills programme.
Joanne Eley, prosecuting, said Angus had argued with Miss Hockwood at the property before declaring “I have had enough”.
She said he went downstairs and smashed plates and broke a door panel.
Miss Eley said Miss Hockwood left the maisonette and received a call from Angus’ mother, who said he had told her he had set fire to the property.
Ian Clift, defending, said Angus hadn’t thought about the consequences of his actions and was ‘extremely shocked and remorseful’ on finding out the amount of damage caused.
He added Angus, who has two children, was ‘a very mature and polite man’ who had promised to grow up.
Angus has previous convictions stretching back to 1999 including criminal damage, actual bodily harm, driving with excess alcohol, driving uninsured and breaching community orders.
Since the blaze Angus and Miss Hockwood have reconciled although, unlike his parents and step-father, she was not present at court.
Neighbouring properties were also affected by the blaze, with one flat sustaining £2,000 worth of damage.
Judge Lodge said when sentencing: “You have caused a considerable amount of damage and upset to residents and the adjoining area.
“Listen and listen carefully. Anymore offences in the next 18 months will see you spend 20 months in prison.”
RESIDENTS of the Craylands Estate expressed their disgust that Angus dodged jail.
Tracy Debnam, 40, of Craylands lives in the neighbouring block of flats. She wasn’t at home at the time of the fire but her two children were and called her as the drama unfolded.
Tracy said: “I find it absolutely disgusting this man had not been sent to prison. The property is absolutely ruined and it affected a lot of peoples lives.
“My children called me because they initially thought the fire was coming from our block of flats and were terrified. Thankfully they stayed safe.”
A 55-year-old woman who was evacuated from her home as the fire took hold said she was very surprised Angus was sent to prison.
The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “He should be behind bars. Although it didn’t affect us directly it is still scary to know this happened only a few doors away.
“We want to know what is happening to the property. With the home set to be pulled down there hardly seems any point in rebuilding it now.”