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Bacup man jailed for four years for torching his own home
5:00pm Saturday 24th August 2013 in News
A FORMER beggar who risked causing a huge explosion in a quiet terraced street when he torched his own home has been jailed for four years.
Recorder Simon Medland QC said there was a ‘serious risk to life and limb’ for both neighbours and the emergency services when Steven Matlock set fire to his kitchen in May.
Matlock, 45, had piled clothing and towels after igniting all the rings of his electric cooker and left two aerosols nearby to cause an explosion, in an apparent suicide attempt, Burnley Crown Court was told.
But prosecutor David Macro said that there was a heater containing a propane cylinder, also on the ground floor of his Olive Street home in Bacup.
He told the court: “If that had exploded then significant damage could well have been sustained to the property, adjoining properties and caused potential harm to police, firefighters and members of the public.”
The court heard that the arson attack was the last in a series of incidents involving Matlock which began at the nearby Shell garage in Market Street.
Counter assistants Lee Garry and Sharon Gregson were working at the service station when the defendant walked in around 8pm, the court was told.
Mr Macro said Mr Garry was completing paperwork when Matlock leaned across the counter and grabbed him by the throat, squeezing so it became difficult for him to breathe.
“The defendant then quietly said to him: ‘Tell that woman to put the money in the bag,” added Mr Macro.
Moments later a customer, civil servant Richard George, suspecting something was wrong, intervened and managed to insert an arm between the pair, forcing Matlock to release his grip.
The court heard he tried to leave but the outer door was locked by staff, to prevent his escape. He began violently kicking the door and, fearing further violence, the door was unlocked and Matlock left.
Mr Macro said police recognised the defendant from CCTV footage. Officers arrived at his home around 45 minutes after the botched robbery.
Smoke was billowing out of two bedroom windows and Matlock could be seen sat on a sill. The officers forced an entry in the property, found the fire in the kitchen and managed to pull the defendant outside.
Arrested and interviewed later, Matlock said in a prepared statement that he could give no explanation as to why he tried to carry out the robbery but he had set the fire to kill himself.
Robert Elias, defending, said Matlock got depressed after he fell out with his long-term carer.
There was no suggestion he had deliberately placed the propane cylinder in harm’s way, added Mr Elias, but acknowledged there was a risk to others.
“He was not trying to injure other people. He was reckless and this is reflected in his plea,” he added.
Matlock, formerly of Olive Street, who admitted attempted robbery, arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and criminal damage, was also given a three-year extended licence, on his release.
Mr Recorder Medland also made a crown court commendation order, in respect of Mr George, and awarded him £200, for his ‘courage’ in intervening in the attempted robbery.