Family's anger as Whitley arsonist jailed for two years

Family's anger as Whitley arsonist jailed for two years

The house at Eden Grove, Whitley, which John Marshall set fire to. Picture by Trevor Porter

John Marshall

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The mother of a disabled teenager trapped indoors when their next-door neighbour set fire to his Whitley house has hit out at his two-year jail sentence.

John Marshall, 57, was sentenced to 24 months in prison last week after he admitted starting a fire at his home on Eden Grove on January 27.

He was arrested at 3am after setting light to a pillow inside the end of terrace house. He then put up a deckchair in his front garden to watch the fire.

The three adjoining homes were all evacuated, and are set to be demolished and rebuilt. The three families affected have all been rehoused.

Marshall pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered when he appeared at Swindon Crown Court on Tuesday.

Elaine Leonard lives in a next door detached house with her quadriplegic 14-year-old daughter Nina.

She said after the case: “I don’t think it will ever be the same here.

"The fire was so bad we were told we couldn’t get Nina out through the front, and we had to monitor the air quality in her bedroom. She was absolutely traumatised.

“She is okay now, but we went through a stage when she was afraid to go to sleep at night as she didn’t know if anything would happen.

“Twenty four months doesn’t seem to be a great deal of time for what he has done. He made three families homeless.”

The court heard how Marshall, who lived alone in the three-bedroom house, had found himself £35 short on his rent to Selwood Housing Association following a cut to his benefits, and was drunk on the night of the fire.

When asked if he had called the fire brigade he replied: “No, let it burn. I am not paying no bedroom tax. Selwood are to blame for this.”

After leaving his burning house and alerting his neighbours Marshall asked neighbour Peter Humphries to look after his dogs.

Mr Humphries said: “He was an emotional mess because of all the stress he had gone through. He said he did it out of desperation.

“I was sat there with him, one minute he nearly cried, the next he laughed. He was totally messed up, it was like he had an emotional breakdown.”

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