Man convicted and sectioned for arsons - South Oxfordshire

29/05/2015

A man appeared at Oxford Crown Court today, Friday, 29 May 2015, and was convicted and sectioned for four arsons, which occurred in South Oxfordshire earlier this year.

The fires took place in the early hours of Thursday, 15 January 2015, at a South Oxfordshire District Council office building and at Chadwick's Funeral Service, both on Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, and at two properties in Roke Marsh near Wallingford.

Later the same day, Andrew Main, aged 47, of Roke Marsh near Wallingford, was arrested and charged with the offences the following day.

Main pleaded guilty to four counts of arson reckless to endanger life during a hearing at Oxford Crown Court on Friday, 1 May.  He pleaded not guilty to one count of arson with intent to endanger life at the same hearing.

Those pleas were accepted today and Main was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "This case involved Andrew Main deliberately setting fire to two homes, including his own, a business premises and South Oxfordshire District Council offices in the early hours of Thursday, 15 January 2015, resulting in the loss of personal possessions with financial and sentimental value, a livelihood and a place of work, and damage estimated at several million pounds.

"There is no doubt that the victim of the first fire was saved by the activation of her smoke alarms, which woke her and enable her to escape and call the fire service.  The second fire was located at Main's own home.  While the fire service was tackling these two fires they were alerted to a further fire at the council offices and then another at a funeral directors.  Gas canisters had been placed at or near all of the fires, so a number of residents were evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night and forced to take refuge in the village hall.  Council staff worked around the clock to restore and maintain services in the direct aftermath of the fire and to minimize the impact on the community.

"Main handed himself in to police later the same morning, but his motive remains unclear as he answered no comment during his police interview before being deemed unfit to be further interviewed.  On 01 May at Oxford Crown Court he pleaded guilty to four counts of arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered and not guilty to one count of arson with intent to endanger life, an alternative to one of the counts of arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered. Main was assessed by two psychiatric Doctors, who both agreed that it would not be possible to make a jury sure that he was capable of forming the requisite intent.  Therefore, the pleas were accepted by the prosecution team.

"Main was clearly seriously ill at the time he set the fires and showed no regard for the destruction they would cause, the danger he had put people in or what the consequences would be.  Arson can have devastating and potentially fatal consequences for those present and for the fire-fighters who attend the scenes to tackle the blazes.  It is incredibly fortunate that nobody was hurt.

"Although today's outcome cannot undo the emotional impact these events have had on the victims and South Oxfordshire District Council staff or the extensive damage and inconvenience caused, I hope that it brings some reprieve to those who have suffered as a result of Main's reckless actions.  Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time."

Senior investigating officer in the case, Detective Inspector Louise Tompkins said: "Main's guilty pleas have saved a number of witnesses the anguish of having to give evidence at court. I hope his convictions bring some sort of closure to all those affected by the incident. The hospital order reflects how unwell Mr Main was at the time he committed the offences.

"Thankfully no-one was seriously injured during the fires.  However, extensive damage was caused to several buildings, including that of South Oxfordshire District Council in Crowmarsh Gifford, Chadwick's Funeral Service and the home of Jean Gladstone, where she had lived for 39 years. The fires had a significant impact on the local communities in and around Crowmarsh Gifford and Roke Marsh.

"Partner agencies worked closely together to help save lives, evacuate members of the people, extinguish the fires, investigate the cause of the fires and bring the case to court. Therefore, I would like to thank the Oxfordshire Fire Service and other fire services who attended the fires, South Oxfordshire District Council, the Crown Prosecution Service and the British Red Cross, as well as members of the public who came to the aid of the tens of evacuated residents on the day of the arsons. This was undoubtedly a fine example of partnership working.

"Finally, I would also like to thank all those officers and staff at Thames Valley Police who helped during the incident and subsequent investigation."