Friday, June 8, 2012
An Exmouth man set fire to his home while suffering from mental illness, a court has heard.
Robert Salter, 49, had been living in a rented property in Fore Street for 18 months when he was issued with a notice of eviction.
Five nights later, on August 31 last year, neighbours were disturbed by banging and a toxic smell.
They were subsequently woken around midnight by shouting, screaming and the sound of an alarm going off.
As they went to investigate, they saw a fire erupting inside Salter’s home, with Salter standing inside.
One neighbour shouted for people to help him, before realising that the front door was open and Salter could leave at any time.
As the fire continued, Salter was heard to say: “I don’t know what’s going on, someone’s out to get me.”
After firefighters arrived and extinguished the blaze, Salter was questioned by police, who described him as incoherent.
The fire caused substantial damage to the property, and analysis showed it was started with a naked flame.
Salter initially denied starting the fire, but later admitted arson at Exeter Crown Court.
At a sentencing hearing, Salter’s barrister said his client had been suffering from a substance-induced psychotic disorder, which since the arson had improved due to help he was receiving at his current accommodation, Morwenna House. The court was told that Salter had initially denied starting the fire as his condition made him paranoid and delusional.
Passing sentence, Judge Graham Cottle handed Salter a two-year community order, with two years supervision, and told him he should continue to live at Morwenna House.
He also warned Salter that any breach of the order would see him sent to prison.