Arsonist’s suicide bid caused £23,000 damage

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First published in News

AN ARSONIST who caused £23,000 of fire damage to an Abingdon care home in a bid to commit suicide has been sectioned.

Mark Coombes was yesterday made subject to indefinite hospital and restriction orders at Oxford Crown Court.

The 48-year-old admitted committing one count of arson reckless as to whether life was endangered in the early hours of April 24 last year.

Meryl Hughes, prosecuting, said that at about 4am, Coombes started two fires using newspaper inside The Knowl – a mental health recovery home run by The Richmond Foundation where he resided at the time.

One of the fires was on the landing outside his door and one in his bed.

The prosecutor said this led to the evacuation of about 100 residents from the building and resulted in an estimated £23,000 of damage, but only Coombes was injured with serious burns.

The barrister added that Coombes had received a text message on the night of the fire from a woman he had been in a relationship with, telling him she “could no longer help him”.

Miss Hughes told Judge Ian Pringle that the motivation for starting the fire was believed to be an attempt by the defendant to take his own life.

Giving evidence forensic psychiatrist Dr Dheeraj Thapar confirmed that Coombes suffers from an emotionally unstable personality disorder and a recurrent depressive disorder.

He said: “In the past, he has been offered treatment many times, including just prior to the offence, but did not take it.”

Judge Ian Pringle said he would now be detained at the Littlemore Mental Health Centre for his own safety and for the safety of the public.

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