Man 'at end of his tether' after lonely holiday takes drastic action

Smith Crescent in Brighouse
-Credit: (Image: Google Maps)

Two men feared for their lives after a suicidal arsonist started a fire in his ground floor flat in Brighouse.

Desperate Lee Shafi, 38, had been seen earlier using a baseball bat to smash windows at his home in Smith Crescent and soon after the fire alarm was set off at the block of four flats.

Bradford Crown Court heard on Friday how fire crews and police attended at the premises on January 2 this year, but Shafi refused to leave his flat despite smoke billowing from a window. Fire crews were able to extinguish the fire inside the flat and he admitted that he had wanted to kill himself.

Read more: 'A freak accident hanging up laundry left me in a wheelchair and plunged us into debt'

The fire had caused damage to an armchair and the walls of the flat and the total bill for all the damage was estimated to be about £2,500.

Recorder Patrick Palmer was told that two other residents, who had been at home on the afternoon of the incident, made statements in which they both said they believed that they could have been killed if the fire had been started when they were asleep. Shafi, who had a history of mental health issues and dependency on drugs and alcohol, pleaded guilty to a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

Get all the latest and breaking Huddersfield news straight to your inbox by signing up to our daily newsletter here.

He appeared before the judge today via a prison video link and the court heard that he had been remanded in custody since early January. Barrister Jeremy Barton, for Shafi, said his client had been diagnosed with PTSD and had been making progress with his drug and alcohol issues while on remand.

He described Shafi as being “at the end of his tether” at the time of the offence and said the defendant had not intended to endanger other people’s lives.

Recorder Palmer noted that after the fire Shafi had told the police it had been a desperate time for him and he had spent Christmas on his own with no support from family or friends. The judge said Shafi’s time in custody appeared to have been beneficial and he was able to suspend his 24-month prison sentence for the next two years.

Shafi will have to do 200 hours unpaid work for the community, attend 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days and comply with an alcohol abstinence monitoring tag for the next 120 days.

Recorder Palmer said the unpaid work was a form of punishment but hopefully by doing the work Shafi would also meet other people outside of his own “isolated existence”