Arson accused denied ‘playing the hero’

A man accused of starting a blaze in a Scarborough flat has denied that a previous fascination with fire was behind what happened.

Gareth Stannard, 20, also denied that he was “playing the hero” by returning to the flat and trying to put out the flames and then assisting the fire brigade when they arrived.

Stannard, of North Marine Road, has pleaded not guilty before York Crown Court to a charge of arson, being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

He is alleged to have placed sofa cushions on a lit cooker hob in a groundfloor flat in Raleigh Street in the early hours of January 12 this year.

Stannard told a jury on the third day of his trial that a claim by a casual acquaintance that he had called at his home, carrying a fire extinguisher, boasting about setting the fire and then stating that he was going back to put it out was a lie.

Similarly Stannard claimed that a statement by another man - who he claimed never to have seen before - that he had been asked not to tell the police he had seen him if the police came around was also a lie.

When arrested Stannard told the police: “I was the one that put it [the fire] out.

“By that I mean I was the one that sorted it out and got someone to ring the fire brigade.”

Stannard told the jury on Friday that he had been passing the Raleigh address, where a friend, David Fallows, lived, saw flames and smoke and entered the flat to try to put the blaze out.

He told the jury that he did not know his friend had moved out and, because of previous conversations, thought that Mr Fallows may have been trying to harm himself.

Stannard admitted that, aged 14, he had been convicted and sent into custody for starting a fire with petrol which damaged the door of a house in his native village of Gate Helmsley.

However, he added that he had received two years of treatment, including psychiatric and psychological help, and had now got over his “fascination” with fire.