August 16, 2018 2.10 pm This story is over 39 months old

Schizophrenic set fire to family home with mum and aunt inside

“A very sad case indeed”

A Lincolnshire man who set fire to his family home after developing delusional beliefs has been made the subject of a hospital order by a judge.

James McDonald, 31, endangered the lives of his mother and aunt when he used petrol to start a blaze at the property in Meeres Lane, Kirton, near Boston, while they were in bed.

Lincoln Crown Court heard McDonald was found standing outside the four bedroom property with a kinfe after he locked the front door.

His mother, Susan McDonald, only escaped after her sister, Helen Seymour, who was staying at the house, woke at 4.15am and realised there was a fire.

The court was told McDonald had poured petrol at ten locations around the ground floor and then set the fire after putting the family dog and cat outside.

John Farmer, prosecuting, said the background to the fire was the onset of serious mental health problems by the defendant.

Mr Farmer told the court Mr McDonald had begun deteriorating in 2016 and later told his mother he was depressed. He then developed delusional beliefs about his parents after moving back to his family home.

On the night before setting the fire he had spent an “uneasy evening” with his mother and aunt while his father was away.

Mr Farmer added: “He collected petrol from the family lawn mower and spread it about ten sites on the ground floor.

“He then set it alight and left locking the front door.

“Fortunately his aunt was awake, had heard the unsual movements downstairs and hearing the crackling noise realised there was a fire.

“She got his mother out of bed who was very distressed and tried to get out of a first floor window before they went down the stairs where Helen Seymour described the fire at knee height.

“Her actions clearly saved them from further harm.”

McDonald was arrested after remaining at the scene but was found to be suffering from psychotic symptoms and could not be interviewed for 12 weeks.

The court heard McDonald was later examined by two doctors who both concluded he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and had developed delusional beliefs.

McDonald was intially charged with attempting to murder his mother and aunt but the Crown Prosecution Service accepted his not guilty pleas to those offences after reviewing the medical evidence and speaking to both complainants.

He pleaded guilty to arson endangering the lives of Susan McDonald and Helen Seymour on 18 May 2017 and possessing a bladed article on the same date.

In a victim impact statement which was read out in court Mrs McDonald said she felt no anger for her son.

She said: “It is not my Jamie, he desperately needs help.”

James Gray, mitigating, told the court McDonald had never been in trouble before.

Passing sentence Judge John Pini QC said he was satisfied McDonald was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and made a restricted hospital order which means he will be detained at the Arnold Lodge unit in Leicestershire.

The judge added: “This is a very sad case indeed.”

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