An arsonist has been given a discretionary life sentence for starting fires at three premises in Whitby where residents or holidaymakers were in bed.
Sentencing Barry Carter, 45, at Leeds Crown Court today Judge Rodney Jameson QC said he was satisfied he currently posed a danger to the public “the harm could have been entirely catastrophic.”
Carter, who has previous convictions for arson, had taken 20 Diazepam tablets before he targeted two addresses in Cliff Street and a guesthouse in Pier Lane, Whitby in the early hours of April 26 last year, during the busy Goth Weekend.
Louise Reevell prosecuting told a previous hearing at York Crown Court that some band members touring Whitby were staying at one of the premises in Cliff Street. A female member of the band and her boyfriend rushed downstairs to find the entrance on fire after being roused by an alarm.
Investigation showed a piece of material from a pair of Carter’s Superman pyjamas had been pushed through the letterbox and used to start the fire.
The owner of the holiday let was left with a bill to repair the lounge and hallway.
About 45 minutes later Carter targeted another cottage in Cliff Street where an elderly couple Robert and Pamela Holmes were asleep.
They were woken by a barking dog and found their ground floor full of smoke and had to flee for their lives.
After escaping from the property they were taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.
Investigation showed Carter had set fire to a wheelie bin which he had propped against their back door. The damage was estimated at more than £3,000.
Mr and Mrs Holmes were unable to use the property for several months and had to install a new kitchen, door, windows and electrics. The fire also destroyed treasured family photographs.
Afterwards Mr Holmes said: “I thought we were going to die. There was oily smoke everywhere. We have lost photos of our kids and grandkids and photos of me when I was in the navy.”
In the third attack again via the letterbox, a woman staying at the guesthouse described herself as being traumatised by her experience after she had to dial 999 and shout for help from her window when she and her partner saw the fire.
She said she had suffered flashbacks and sleepless nights since.
The court heard Carter claimed to have no recollection of events. He has appeared in court on 37 previous occasions for 145 offences including arson in 1988 and in 2010.
He was detained under a hospital order on that last occasion after setting fire to a probation officer’s car in Middlesbrough.
Leeds Crown Court heard a psychiatrist concluded in a recent report that Carter did have a personality disorder which would benefit from psychological intervention in prison.
Chris Wood representing Carter said he had been a heavy drinker and drug user in the past which had added to his mental health difficulties. Since being in custody his medication had been changed and he was showing signs of improvement.
Carter, 45 of Haggersgate, Whitby admitted three charges of arson with intent to endanger life and was jailed for life with a minimum sentence of three years 280 days.
Judge Jameson told him he would only be released when the Parole Board considers he no longer poses a danger to the public and urged him to engage with the therapy available to him.
Before he was taken from the dock Carter said: “I’d just like to say I am sorry to everyone who has been involved.”