Jealous Gravesend arsonist jailed
PUBLISHED: 16:28 01 December 2010
A fire that endangered the lives of families trapped in a block of flats was started after a man set fire to his ex-girlfriend's lover's car.
Robert Stillwell, 21, of Stonewood, Bean, was sentenced to three years four months in jail on Thursday for committing arson with reckless disregard, after torching a Suzuki Vitara parked beneath flats at Russell Quay, West Street, Gravesend, on August 4.
Stillwell pleaded guilty to the charge but denied intending to endanger life.
The court heard a statement from one resident in the flats, Craig Mercer, who was trapped with his eight months pregnant wife.
Prosecuting Chris Simpson said: “The fire quickly spread from the car to another two and then to the adjoining flats. In these flats were unsuspecting families with children whose lives were needlessly put at risk.”
In total the blaze destroyed three cars and caused extensive damage to the apartment block costing around £85,000.
The attack was triggered by an acrimonious break-up with girlfriend Donna Cross — a resident at Russell Quay.
Stillwell was on a night out drinking with friends in the town when he decided to confront his ex.
Arriving at the flats he saw the car of love rival Raymond Parfitt and “to wind him up” lit his soft top roof with a lighter.
Defending him Susan Rodam said: “There was no intent to endanger life and the fact there was no accelerant shows there was no aforethought. In his own words he did it wind him up. The defendant simply did not think through the consequences of his actions.”
She added Stillwell had pleaded guilty at the first possible time, at a hearing on October 22.
Delivering his sentence Judge Philip Statman said: “It is clear that you set fire to a vehicle. This fire spread to a block of flats endangering a great number of lives. That is the problem with a fire, you never know where it is going to go next.”