Man denies starting fire which killed pets in Gazelle Court, Colchester

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ipswich Crown Court. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

A Colchester man accused of starting fires at two flats in which a cat, a chinchilla and some birds died was allegedly seen leaving his flat with lighter fluid and two sticks with tea towels taped to them, a court has heard.

David Bates was watching an England football match at David Grothier’s flat in Highwoods when Grothier allegedly started talking about a woman he “had some trouble with” in a nearby block of flats and claimed she had thrown a brick through his window.

Mr Bates claimed that Grothier had threatened to burn her flat down and shortly afterwards had left his flat and returned with two pieces of wood.

Grothier had allegedly taped tea towels to the sticks and then left with them and some lighter fluid.

He returned 15 minutes later and allegedly drew Mr Bates’ attention to smoke coming out of Gazelle Court.

Cross-examined by Edward Duncan-Smith for Grothier, Mr Bates denied making up the account he had given the court because he wanted to get Grothier out of his flat so he could have it.

Grothier, 49, of Chinook, Colchester, has denied arson and attempted arson with intent to endanger life and arson and attempted arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

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He is alleged to have set fire to flats occupied by Catherine Purchases and her son Jack Hymus in Gazelle Court on March 26 this year killing a number of pets.

The court has heard the fire failed to take hold in Ms Purchases’ flat but her son’s home was badly affected and a number of pets died.

Giving evidence during the second day of the trial, Andrew and Irena Claridge who lived in a flat above Grothier’s in Chinook claimed they had seen Grothier coming and going from his flat and acting suspiciously on the evening in question.

The couple admitted they disliked Grothier but denied implicating him in the fires at Gazelle Court because they had a vendetta against him.

Mr Claridge told the court he had been approached by Channel 5’s The Nightmare Neighbour Next Door and had wanted to take part to show people what he and his wife had been through while living near Grothier.

The trial continues.

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