Original article no longer available
26 April 2007
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The explosion caused £40,000 worth of damage
A man who blew up his Cheshunt bedsit has been jailed for 27 months.
Matthew Cherry, 36, deliberately started a fire in his groundfloor hostel room causing a bottle of butane gas to explode with catastrophic results on January 17 this year.
Cherry pleaded guilty at St Albans crown court on Monday to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Charles Ingham, prosecuting, said Cherry was seen by a woman in the kitchen of Lawrence House, the Broxbourne-Council owned hostel in Cromwell Avenue as she cooked a meal.
He appeared to be drunk and suddenly shouted out: “It’s going off in five minutes.”
The scared woman alerted her husband and another woman resident and the three dashed for the front door. As they did so there was a loud explosion, throwing all three to the ground.
The door to the defendant’s room was blown of its hinges, and his front wall was blown into the garden outside.
Mr Ingham said: “He could be seen standing in the room with his arms outstretched like some kind of God”
An investigation into what caused the explosion, found that Cherry had started a fire in his room and the resulting heat from the flames had caused a butane gas cannister to explode.
When arrested at the scene he told police: “Did I kill anyone? I can’t believe I am still alive”.
Mr Ingham said: “He said he was drunk and said he had wanted to kill himself.”
He said before starting the fire he had taken 32 prozac tablets.
Mr Ingham said the explosion caused £40,000 pounds of damage to the building.
Simon Smith, defending, said: “The history of Mr Cherry and his family is a tragic one.”
He said Cherry had been adopted as a child and went to live with a supportive family who sent him to a private school.
But his life changed in his early teens, when a social worker he was close to died and his older brother hung himself.
Mr Smith said the defendant had taken a number of overdoses in the past and had suffered depression and drink problems.