Arsonist jailed for eight years

A MAN has been handed an eight year prison sentence after his obsession with a former partner led to a “very frightening” arson attack.

Elliot Furniss

A MAN has been handed an eight year prison sentence after his obsession with a former partner led to a “very frightening” arson attack.

Stephen Savage, 32, doused the stairwells and communal areas of a block of flats in Clacton with petrol before setting the building alight.

He had spent the previous few days sending threatening messages to his ex-partner Christine Cull and her adult son Darren, who lived in the flats at Cheryl Court which he targeted.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told that Savage, of Park Road, Clacton, carried out the crime at about 3.30am on the morning of November 22, 2007, which led to 12 people being evacuated from their homes.

He was arrested near his home a short while later and examination of his clothes and shoes showed traces of the same Shell brand petrol that was used in the arson attack.

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He initially denied involvement in the crime but pleaded guilty at a hearing in January.

Richard Potts, prosecuting, told the court that the campaign of harassment had started shortly after Ms Cull left Savage in September 2007 at the end of a “stressful” 14 year relationship.

He said: “He (Savage) sent many text messages and phone calls to Christine Cull and also to her son Darren and to her place of work, QD stores in Clacton.”

He said the content of the messages was threatening, including those saying “You're dead”, “You will die” and “You're children will die”.

On November 21, 2007, the day before the arson attack, Savage sent messages to Darren and to the shop saying “Darren's flat is on fire” and “There is a bomb under one of your cars”.

The court heard that the harassment continued even after his arrest.

Mr Potts said: “Whilst he (Savage) was in custody, on January 4, 2008, Christine Cull received an envelope containing two pieces of paper, with references to 'Darren Cull dying in the next fire' and rape threats to her and her mother.

“Another piece had (drawings of) six headstones and their (members of the family) names and 'RIP' in each of them.”

Simon Spence, defending, said Savage had a “sorry” family history but had only ever been a “doting and loving” father to the now two-year-old son he had with Ms Cull.

He said: “It is that love for his son that led to his actions over the period of time this is connected with.”

In sentencing, Judge Christopher Ball QC said he was prepared to “take a risk” in not imposing an indeterminate prison term.

He said: “I'm going to accept that it may be that you are no longer obsessed in the way you were with the breakdown of your relationship and that this was an isolated and very, very frightening episode.”

He told Savage he would have to serve half of the sentence, less 485 days already served on remand, before being eligible for release.