Man wilfully set fire to Campbeltown flat

The 2017 fire caused damage to the flat and surrounding properties.
The 2017 fire caused damage to the flat and surrounding properties.

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A man suffering from auditory hallucinations barricaded himself inside and set fire to his Campbeltown home.

The flat at 29C Albyn Avenue was badly damaged by the fire in the summer of 2017 – the blaze was so intense that it burned walls back to the brickwork, buckled radiators and melted the bath.

Duncan Woodford, 36, was not in the dock when his case called at the town’s sheriff court on Tuesday.

Instead Sheriff Patrick Hughes conducted an examination of the facts under the mental health provisions of criminal procedure legislation.

Woodford was charged with behaving in a threatening and abusive manner likely to cause fear and alarm by repeatedly striking and cutting himself; uttering threats of violence, barricading himself in the flat and smashing windows; culpably and recklessly throwing items to the street below and at police, and wilfully setting fire to the flat, resulting in extensive damage to the flat, the flat below and to the danger of other residents in adjoining properties.

After hearing evidence from fire, police and ambulance personnel plus a doctor, Sheriff Hughes said: ‘The witnesses gave credible evidence and I am fully satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the charges are proved.’

He has now called for an up-to-date medical report on Woodford before he reaches a verdict and the case will call again on February 4.

Station Commander Ronnie Souden from Campbeltown Fire Station told the court that within minutes of the call on the afternoon of July 27, 2017, two appliances were at the scene where they found the first-floor flat ‘well engulfed in flames’. The fire fighters feared that it was just about to enter the roof space and spread to the adjoining flat.

The fire was fought immediately from the outside and two teams of two fire fighters, each wearing breathing apparatus, then went inside. Thick smoke meant zero visibility for the fire fighters in the flat as they negotiated items used to barricade the door.

The fire was quickly under control and extinguished but a crew had to wait there until crime scene officers had travelled from Glasgow to examine the premises.

Mr Souden said that water from melted pipes and the fire hoses caused water damage to the flat below where the elderly occupant had to be evacuated. The other first-floor flat smelled badly from smoke; only one flat in the block of four was unscathed.

Electricity and gas engineers also had to come and make sure the building was safe.

Constable Christopher Bain said he was one of the first officers on the scene after a call to report Woodford was self-harming and barricading himself inside the flat.

Woodford was at the living room window of the flat, shouting, swearing and throwing items to the ground below.

‘He said he was going to burn the flat down and threatening to kill himself,’ said the officer.

The police tried to open up a dialogue with Woodford and a crowd began to gather outside; police estimated up to 100 people were watching.

Extra police were called in, said Sergeant Alasdair MacLaren. A request for extra officers and a negotiator, all two hours away in Glasgow, was not granted. A member of Woodford’s family went to the scene to try to talk to him.

The stand-off continued until the fire started. Officers began to break down the door but Woodford had jumped from the kitchen window at the rear where other officers restrained him.

Ambulance service paramedic Jamie Morris said he and a colleague checked Woodford for spinal injuries after the fall. They then took him by ambulance to Campbeltown Hospital, accompanied by a police officer.

The GP on duty at the hospital described Woodford as very compliant and co-operative, but noted a low mood, paranoid and auditory hallucinations plus suicidal ideation.