Ashley Walker, with the help of accomplice Graham Wills, set fire to what he thought was the home of a man he incorrectly believed was in a relationship with his former girlfriend.
Instead of targeting the man’s upstairs flat he set fire to the Blyth home of Lillian McElfatrick, the 71-year-old pensioner who lived downstairs, causing up to £60,000 of damage. Ms McElfatrick was uninsured and lost everything she owned in the fire including clothing, pictures and sentimental mementos.
On the same night Walker also set fire to his ex-girlfriend’s car.
Working closely with Northumbria Police, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) carried out the investigation into the arson attack and provided evidence to support the court case.
Paul Hedley, chief fire officer at NFRS, said: “Our fire investigators worked closely at the crime scene to determine the cause of the fire and provided evidence to help secure the conviction of these two callous criminals.”
Last Friday, Recorder Andrew Baker QC at Newcastle Crown Court sentenced Walker, 29, of Aln Avenue, Gosforth, to 10 years in jail and his accomplice Wills, 36, of Fourteenth Avenue, Blyth, to six years and three months behind bars.
They were each convicted of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered and for setting fire to a car. Wills also carried out an unrelated burglary.
Both fire attacks happened in the early hours of May 15 last year. In summing up, the judge said Walker acted with ‘callous disregard for people’s safety, well-being and life’ by torching the flat.
He added: “Had she been fast asleep the consequences could have been catastrophic, if not fatal.”