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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Barrow woman threw herself out of burning flat ‘in despair’

A BARROW woman set her council flat on fire then threw herself out of a window, a court has heard.

Caroline Fudge fractured her spine in three places and broke four ribs after leaping from the window of her upstairs flat in Lesh Lane, Barrow.

The blaze in March last year was said to have caused around £21,000-worth of damage.

Fudge, 59, now living in Hemel Hempstead, had pleaded guilty to a charge of arson being reckless whether life would be endangered.

Her partner, Tony Irvine, had left the flat following a disagreement on the night of March 2.

Mr Andrew Scott, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court a neighbour living below the first floor flat was watching TV shortly after midnight when he saw a silhouette of a person fall past his window. He then heard a loud thud outside.

Fudge was seen lying unconscious on the ground. Dark smoke was coming out of her flat.

The neighbour rushed to help and Fudge regained consciousness. When asked if Mr Irvine was still inside the flat she replied: “He’s left me”.

The emergency services were called and Fudge told a fire officer: “It’s me. I did it. It’s my fault”. She told a police officer she had thrown a dog bed and newspaper to the bottom of the stairs and set fire to them.

Fudge spent five weeks in hospital. She told police in interview she had argued with Mr Irvine that night, resulting in her feeling angry and upset.

Mr John Marchant, defending, said Fudge was a woman of previous good character. He said all had not been well in the relationship which had ended that same night. Mr Irvine had left with the dog and gone to a caravan.

Fudge’s recollection of what happened was somewhat hazy, he said. After setting fire to the dog bed she had been overcome by smoke and jumped out of the window.

Mr Marchant said: “She apologises for her actions. She has shown considerable remorse.

“The professionals say she is not likely to re-offend. She is not a danger to the public”.

Fudge was given 16 months prison, suspended for two years, with two years supervision and a requirement for mental health treatment.

Judge Andrew Woolman told her: “All offences of arson are serious because of the potential consequences. One doesn’t know what would have happened had your neighbour been asleep.

“I am quite sure it was the extreme sadness of the breakdown of the relationship which brought you to such a low ebb. You found yourself in the depth of despair.”

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