Woman jailed for flat fires - Hatfield


A 68-year-old woman, who started two fires at her flat within hours of each other, was jailed on Friday, 20 March 2015, for 18 months.

Judith Craddock started the first fire by igniting paper in a saucepan in her kitchen. That was at 5.30 in the morning and, four hours later, she started a second blaze when she set fire to a blanket.

St Albans Crown Court was told the fires were at her flat, which was within a three storey block called Hollier Court in Hatfield.

Craddock pleaded guilty to two charges of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. She appeared via a video link to Peterborough Prison, where she has been held on remand since the fires last October.

David Chrimes, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), described Hollier Court as sheltered accommodation with staff to assist residents living there. Craddock had issues with alcohol and depression and had become isolated from her family.

The court was told that after she started the first fire on 31 October last year at 5.30 in the morning, a smoke alarm was activated and fire crews were on the scene quickly to put out the fire. She was not arrested at the time and was in the flat alone once more at 9.30 that morning, when she set fire to a blanket. Once more, the smoke alarm sounded and this time staff were able to put the fire out. Police arrived and she was arrested, telling officers: "I am an arsonist."

Mr Chrimes said that more by luck than judgement, the two fires she started that morning caused relatively minor damage. Craddock herself suffered smoke inhalation, but after treatment in hospital was discharged. The prosecutor said she told officers how the previous week she had tried to take her own life and the night before the fires she had drunk two bottles of wine.

Jonathan Rosen, defending, said: "This was a cry for help from a desperate woman." He said that while in prison on remand Craddock had undertaken courses to help her tackle her alcohol problems. "This is a woman who is truly sorry for what she did," he said.

Recorder Patrick Fields said it was a sad case, but he said when she had started the fires she had endangered the life of her neighbours and the emergency services were sent to the fire. He jailed her for 18 months.

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