An arsonist who sparked a blaze that put the lives of his neighbours in danger has been jailed for eight years.
Leslie Buttler, 39, set fire to a front door in the block of flats where he lived in Flagg Court, South Shields - trapping an elderly woman and her son inside their home as it filled with thick black smoke.
Newcastle Crown Court heard it was only because the family had a smoke alarm that the early hours of the morning blaze was detected before anybody was hurt or killed.
Fire crews had to help the trapped couple escape from their flat and the flames were extinguished before they took a good hold of their home.
In court yesterday, Judge Sean Morris said it was “sheer fluke” that the family had a smoke detector fitted, which meant nobody got hurt.
But the judge warned: “People could have been killed”.
People could easily have been killedJudge Sean Morris
Buttler admitted arson.
The court the court heard he has a history of “bizarre, reckless behaviour”.
The judge sentenced him to eight years behind bars with a five year extended licence period.
Judge Morris told him: “I do think there is a serious risk of you committing further specified offences and being a serious danger to the public. All in all, I think you are dangerous.”
The court heard Buttler has a previous conviction for making a bomb hoax call along with other offences on his record.
The judge added; “This was a planned arson attack with the intention you were going to endanger people’s lives. People could easily have been killed.
“It was sheer fluke your victim had a smoke alarm, they had no way to get out, the fire brigade had to be called. The firefighters lives could have been put at risk if the fire had managed to get hold.
“Fortunately, they got there in time so it did not.”
The court heard a psychiatric report prepared in Buttler’s case concluded he had a mild learning disability and personality disorder and is someone who builds up an extreme reaction to stressful events.