Clacton arsonist jailed after setting fire to block of flats' only exit

Thomas McGinn was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court

Thomas McGinn was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court - Credit: Essex Police

A Clacton man has been jailed for four years after he pleaded guilty to deliberately setting fire to the only exit from a block of flats. 

Thomas McGinn was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday, December 3, after pleading guilty to arson endangering life.

Officers investigating a fire in a block of flats in Carnarvon Road, Clacton in the early hours of April 1, discovered a magazine which had been deliberately set alight and placed at the bottom of the stairway — which was the only exit route for two families living in the flats above. 

The 38-year-old, of Colne Road in the town, was identified after police examined a still image taken from CCTV and one officer recognised McGinn as the man he had stopped in the area shortly after the fire was started. 

McGinn was then arrested on April 19. 

During an interview McGinn initially denied starting the fire — which caused damage to carpet, walls, two push chairs and a child’s scooter — despite being caught on CCTV entering the property at the time and a few minutes after he left, with the fire glowing. 

McGinn was charged with arson endangering life and appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on August 17.

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Detective Sergeant Dan Smith, Clacton CID, investigating, said: “This could have had catastrophic consequences had the fire alarm not activated and the sleeping families evacuated, whilst colleagues in the fire service dealt with the fire.

“Due to the diligent investigation, Thomas McGinn was quickly identified and he will now serve four years as punishment for putting the lives of others at risk.

“The case against him was so strong, he had no choice but to plead guilty.

“This sentence should serve as a stark warning to others who would intend to use fire to cause harm to others.”

The court added an extended three year licence to the sentence.