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A WOMAN determined to end her own life was saved by the “bravery” of a neighbour who, despite his own health problems, scaled a ladder to drag her away from a blazing sofa, a court heard.

James Murphy had been asleep in his Northstead Flats home when he became aware that a neighbouring flat was ablaze.

He tried to break the door down, but when this did not work he ran outside and scaled a ladder to the window of the first floor flat, climbed in and, despite thick smoke, found the woman and dragged her away from the flames.

This, York Crown Court heard, was despite the fact that Mr Murphy suffers from epilepsy and has heart problems, including angina.

The woman he saved, 42-year-old Elaine White, had started the fire in an attempt to commit suicide after drinking vodka, and she appeared for sentencing on a charge of arson, being reckless as to whether the lives of others was endangered.

David Garnett, prosecuting, told the court that White, who shared a flat in the house, off Long Walk with her partner, had used a picture frame and other items to start the blaze on September 1 after locking herself inside.

Mr Garnett said that after climbing the ladder, which he took from the roof of a van outside the flats, Mr Murphy had to repeatedly return through the smoke to the window he had forced to get enough air to carry on his search for White.

After he found her and dragged her away from the flames, others entered the flat by forcing the door with a garden spade and help get White out of the premises.

White, who appeared from custody, also admitted breaching a suspended prison sentence imposed for an affray in which she had others had abused an Asian family on a Scarborough beach, throwing bottles at them.

Marc McKone, mitigating, said that his client had been drinking up to two bottles of vodka a day and had, for several days before setting the fire, been feeling “useless” and had decided to end her own life.

Mr McKone said that White had taken advantage of alcohol courses whilst on remand and would benefit from further help in the community, rather than being sent back into prison.

However, Judge Colin Burn, who had the benefit of both a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric report on White, said custody was the only possible sentence.

White, who admitted arson within days of the fire, was sentenced to two years imprisonment.