Original article no longer available
The Redditch Standard
25 September 2008
A CHURCH HILL arsonist who caused over £40,000 worth of damage to four houses has been given an extended jail sentence for public protection. Susan Kendall used lighter fuel to set ablaze a bed and sofa at her mid-terraced home in Fullbrook Close, Church Hill South. But a neighbour taking his dog for an early morning walk noticed smoke pouring from the house roofs and alerted the occupants – who were asleep in their beds – and the fire brigade.
Kendall was found sitting outside her home. She laughed as she admitted starting the fire to a paramedic and said: “I’d just had enough,” Worcester Crown Court heard. Kendall pleaded guilty to arson while reckless whether life was endangered. Jailing her for four years and ten months with a five-year extension to her prison licence on release, Judge Alistair McCreath said she was responsible “for a very dangerous act”.
Her history revealed impulsive actions in other crimes, and the judge concluded she posed a significant risk to members of the public in the future. He said missing her medication for depression or mixing it with alcohol could spark off more offences. Kendall had annoyed her neighbours by playing loud music in the past, causing them to complain to Redditch Borough Council about their tenant, said Peter Parson, prosecuting.
On December 23 last year the noise went on until 5am when one neighbour got up because of being disturbed and took his dog for a walk. Kendall was sitting by the side of the road with beer cans and appeared drunk. When he returned, the houses were on fire. Luckily, all the residents were evacuated but firefighters needed breathing apparatus to extinguish the inferno.
Mr Parson said the blaze was triggered by Kendall having her bag stolen in a nightclub the day before. In 2004 Kendall made 11 death threats by phone to the home of a neighbour and backed it up by arming herself with two knives, said Mr Parson. Two years later she bit a man on the thumb in The Sportsman pub in Redditch town centre after trying to take his drink off him. She also went into the Alexandra Hospital the same year shouting obscenities and racial abuse.
Psychiatric reports confirmed that she posed a real risk to the community. Samantha Powis, defending, said the removal of her children and the death of her mother had led to enormous emotional stress. “This was not an act of malice but a cry for help,” she said. “She is a woman ill-equipped to deal with life. But she appreciates fully what she did and the danger she put people in.” Having spent months at a psychiatric hospital since the blaze – and 155 days in prison on remand – she had made real efforts to change her life.