A woman who stuffed her jacket into the letterbox of a Coventry house, where a mother and her two children were sleeping, and set light to it has been jailed.
Kelly Masters had denied a charge of arson with intent to endanger lives, blaming another woman for the fire, but was found guilty after a trial at Warwick Crown Court.
And following an adjournment for reports to be prepared on her, a judge decided Masters (28) of Lapworth Road, Coventry, poses a danger to people in the future.
She was given an extended sentence of seven years in prison, of which she will have to serve at least two-thirds before the parole board can even consider her release.
If she is freed before serving the whole of the seven years, she will be on licence for the rest of the term and for an additional two years, recorder Alastair Smith ordered.
The court heard that in November 2015 Masters went to an address in Roselands Avenue, Coventry, late at night looking for her aunt, who was not there.
The woman who lived at the address suggested her aunt might be at another house in Roselands Avenue – and at 11.30pm they both went to try there.
But after getting no reply, possibly because it was so late, Masters took off her leather jacket and stuffed it into the letterbox before setting light to it.
She and the other woman, who had left the scene and then returned, then simply walked away.
Fortunately, a neighbour spotted the burning door and raised the alarm, and the woman who lived there was able to get herself and her two children, aged eight and six, out of the back door.
Masters did not give evidence during her trial, but the jury heard that when she was arrested she had tried to blame the woman who was with her for the arson attack.
At the resumed hearing, her barrister Ian Windridge said a psychiatrist who had prepared a report on Masters found ‘no evidence that she suffers from a pathological fire-setting disorder or pyromania.’
He pointed out that Masters had set light to her jacket, but had not used any accelerant, and the fire was confined to an area around the letterbox.
Mr Windridge conceded it could have spread, and that Masters ‘needs to be punished’ – but argued it was ‘not necessary to go beyond a simple determinate custodial sentence.’
But imposing an extended sentence, Recorder Smith told Masters: “It appears you attempted to knock with a view to finding your aunt, but those inside either didn’t hear or didn’t respond.
“For reasons which still remain unclear, you took offence and, removing your coat, stuffed it into the letterbox, and you then set fire to the coat which took light and began to burn the area of the door, which itself caught light.
“Fortunately the fire was seen in its early stages by a neighbour who shouted up to those in the house, who included an eight-year-old and a six-year-old, as well as the owner.
“They were able to make their way out and wait in the garden until the fire brigade arrived.”
Recorder Smith observed that the other woman had left Masters at the door, but had then returned and was told by Masters what she had done.
“Her response was to say ‘What are you doing? There are kids in there.’
“But both of you left the area. Neither of you made any attempt to contact the fire brigade.
“The jury were satisfied that not only had you started the fire, but that you intended to endanger the lives of those in that house.
“It is extremely fortunate a neighbour became aware of that fire and was able to alert the occupiers.
“The risk in setting fire to the main exit point of a domestic property must have been plain to you at the time.
“You have shown no acceptance or remorse or insight into your offence, and you have sought in your pre-sentence report, as in your interview, on the prosecution witness.”