Depressed arsonist mum avoids jail — (The Age)

SSRI Ed note: Woman's high dose antidepressants make her "agitated and suicidal", she announces, carries out plan to set house on fire. Son gets her out. Depression blamed.

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The Age

December 6, 2007 – 6:27PM

A depressed mother set fire to her Brisbane rented house while she and her son were inside because she was convinced she had nothing left to live for, a court has been told.

Therese Henry-Erlandson, 53, and her 20-year-old son survived the blaze, which destroyed the Queenslander-style home in the southern suburb of Greenslopes on June 14, 2004.

The total damage bill from the fire came to more than $260,000.

Henry-Erlandson pleaded guilty on Thursday in the Brisbane District Court to one count of arson.

The court was told Henry-Erlandson, who now lives in Toowoomba, was on high dosage antidepressants at the time but they made her agitated and suicidal.

Hours before the blaze, Henry-Erlandson phoned her husband, who was working in the Northern Territory, and asked him if he would come home if something terrible happened.

She then told him she planned on using candles to set fire to the curtains and, in turn, the house.

She had told her husband: “I’ve got nothing to live for anyway”.

Hours later, her son woke to find the house full of smoke and the curtains ablaze.

The court was told he tried to fight the blaze but was overcome and instead focused on getting his mother to safety.

Defence lawyer Peter Russo said Henry-Erlandson had been suffering severe depression for many years and that she had not been in control of her actions at the time of the fire.

He urged the court to release her immediately on parole, tendering psychiatric reports that argued a period of custody would be detrimental to her mental health.

Judge Michael Noud agreed, saying he had the ability to immediately release serious arsonists in “exceptional” cases.

Henry-Erlandson was sentenced to three years jail but was released on parole.

© 2007 AAP