Arsonist charged with life after a spree of fire starting, which included a hospital fire, university and museum fire.
Sheffield man, Thomas Ashcroft has confessed to three counts of arson which put many vulnerable people’s lives at risk. Ashcroft must serve a minimum of seven years and 182 days, before being allowed parole.
The first fire occurred at the SeaCity Museum in Southampton, where Ashcroft also pleaded guilty to the theft of £200 cash.
The museum, which included 21 staff members, 217 members of the general public, 11 teachers and 61 school children were evacuated. The blaze which allowed Ashcroft to steal the cash sum, actually caused damages worth around £10,000.
The second account of fire was started at the Staffordshire University’s Beacon Building accommodation. The fire alarm was sounded at approximately 4 pm, where both adults and children were evacuated after Ashcroft set fire to tissue paper inside the first floor disabled toilet.
The final account of fire followed at the Royal Stoke University hospital. The hospital fire occurred just before 6 pm, 7 June, whereby hundreds of patients were evacuated from their hospital beds. The defendant began his frenzy by setting fire to flammable items contained within metal cages. Before he then headed towards the second-floor restaurant in a bid to steal money from the till. Deterred by a member of staff who was still in the area, he then proceeded to leave the building. This hospital fire resulted in mass disruption to scheduled operations and a further £445,000 worth of premises damage.
A count of manslaughter after the death of elderly patient May Maxfield, who passed shortly after the fire, was renounced.
The courts heard that Thomas Ashcroft was no pyromaniac and that his motive was purely monetary based.
Staffordshire Police’s Detective Inspector Dan Ison commented:
“His tactic of setting light to buildings is both reckless and dangerous and could have resulted in the deaths of many people.
“We welcome this sentence and hope it deters others”
Luckily, CCTV images of Ashcroft on the university campus and within the hospital complex contributed to the successful prosecution.
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Original Sources: BBC News | The Sentinel | The Express and Star