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Arsonist starts three year prison term
AN ARSONIST who ignored his girlfriend's screams after blocking their only escape route by starting a fire has been jailed for three years.
John Ronan set fire to a set of curtains at his home in Rutland Avenue, High Wycombe, having previously told his girlfriend Michaela Kahan to get out the house.
Oxford Crown Court heard 42-year-old Ronan, who had been struggling with alcoholism, had made previous threats to burn the house down but nothing had ever happened - until he followed through with his threat on September 9.
Ronan set fire to the curtains across the property's patio door - which was the only way out as the front door was blocked by boxes left when the couple moved into the house - before sitting down on a sofa to watch the flames, prosecutor Tim Boswell told the court.
Miss Kahan was upstairs when Ronan started the fire but after hearing an alarm she rushed downstairs to discover flames starting to reach across the ceiling.
Mr Boswell said: "The battery had been removed from the alarms downstairs but upstairs was working.
"Mr Ronan was sat on the sofa in the living room, watching the flames. She screamed at him but he ignored her."
It was only when Miss Kahan had gone to fetch water to quench the flames that Ronan, who had been drinking prior to starting the fire with a tealight candle and some tissues, finally acted.
He went to fetch a jug full of water from the kitchen to put out the fire, which had been extinguished by the time fire crews arrived.
Ronan pleaded guilty to a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at a previous court hearing and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment on Monday.
He had been charged with the more serious crime of arson with intent to endanger life, but this was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service after his plea.
Dee Connolly, for the defence, said Ronan was taking anti-depressants at the time and the fire had been a "cry for help".
Judge Gordon Risius told the defendant he did not believe him to be a significant risk to the public but that he had no option other than jailing him.
Passing sentence the judge told Ronan: "What you did placed your partner's life and the lives of people in adjoining properties at real risk."