A crown court judge commended the actions of two women who went to the aid of an elderly neighbour when the house next door was set alight.
Julie Yates and Sarah Norquoy helped pensioner Hermione Pearce in Smith Street, Nelson, when they saw the fire started by drunken Jeffrey Stansfield.
Stansfield, who lived on the other side of the fire house, had broken into the empty property after his mother told him to leave their home when he became abusive after drinking. He started the fire to get warm because he was cold, but the flames soon got out of control. People in the street were alerted to the unfolding drama when Stansfield (26) threw lighted cushions, and then a sofa, out of a window.
The court was told he thought he had dealt with the blaze and left the house to go for a hair cut. When he returned he joined neighbours on the street to watch firefighters put out the fire. Stansfield pleaded guilty to arson, being reckless as to whether he would endanger life. He was jailed for two years and eight months.
Judge Beverly Lunt told him that his actions had been dangerous. “You broke into a house to use as a shelter and lit a fire to keep warm and then left,” she said. Judge Lunt said Mrs Pearce’s victim statement showed she was a very resilient nice lady who took the attitude she did not want to think about what had happened.
After the hearing, Sarah said: “Anyone would have done the same thing! But we were pleased we got her out of there okay, though.” Julie added: “If we hadn’t banged on the door she wouldn’t have come to the door. I was relieved to get her out.”