Man jailed for flat fire - Berkhamsted


A court heard how a Berkhamsted man made a number of valiant attempts to rescue a young mum from a burning flat, only to be beaten back by flames and smoke.

St Albans Crown Court heard that Jason Huxtable repeatedly tried to get to Connie Breen, 24, and her daughter Desiree, 4, after spotting a fire at their ground floor flat in the early hours of 19 February this year.

In fact Miss Breen and her daughter were not there at the time, but Mr Huxtable, who was  her neighbour, wasn't to know that.

The story was revealed when Mark Bonner, 46, a former boyfriend of Connie, appeared in court on Friday, 06 July 2012, to plead guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

The court heard that the fire was at a four storey block of flats in Pheasant Close, Berkhamsted.

It was around 6.30 on a Sunday morning, with residents asleep in their beds. A number of them had to be rescued by the fire brigade from their open windows.

David Chrimes, for the Crown Prosecution Service said that Mr Huxtable was enjoying an early morning cup of tea when he spotted smoke billowing out of Miss Breen's ground floor flat, which was below his.

The prosecutor said he made a number of brave attempts to get inside the flat but was beaten back by the heat and smoke and called the emergency services.

In fact Connie and Desiree had gone away for the weekend.

The court then heard how Bonner, of Sunleigh Road, Alperton in Middlesex, had been in an 18-month relationship with Miss Breen.

By February of this year, the relationship was on its last legs and both were seeing other people.

Mr Bonner had stayed at the flat on the Thursday night before the fire but, on leaving on the Friday morning, had forgotten to take with him his mobile phone.

Later he contacted Miss Breen, who by now had gone away for the weekend and it was arranged that he could go back to her flat to get his phone.

Mr Chrimes said it was while he was at the flat that he saw photos on a phone belonging to Miss Breen, which suggested she was seeing someone else.

The court heard he then went out and bought petrol but didn't use it when starting three separate seats of fire at the flat.

"Jealousy caused the matter to escalate in the way it did," said Mr Chrimes.

The fire caused £38,000 worth of damage to the flat, which was "effectively gutted" said Mr Chrimes.

Judge Martin Griffith, hearing the case, was told Bonner hadn't tried to make excuses for his actions and was now remorseful for what he'd done.

The judge jailed him for two years.

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