Jail for women who torched her own flat

Laura Wood

Laura Wood

A woman who torched her own flat during a drink-and-drug binge has been jailed for four years.

Laura Marie Wood, 27, set off three separate fires at her home in Scarborough in what was initially thought to be a suicide bid.

About a month later, while on bail for arson, she sexually assaulted a woman in the Selby area after creeping into her house through an unlocked door and kissing her cheek while she slept.

York Crown Court heard that Wood drank 15 cans of booze and taken three sleeping tablets before setting fire to her flat in St Sepulchre Street at about 11am on June 5 last year.

She was seen leaning out of her front window, gasping for air, by a man who rushed to her aid.

Hero Nicholas Ellis, 31, saw smoke billowing from Wood’s apartment where the trapped woman was screaming for help. He kicked in the communal door to the three-storey property then ran up to Wood’s flat on the middle floor, where he forced open the door to her smoke-filled home.

Prosecutor Andrew Semple said Mr Ellis, his lungs filling with smoke, saw a pile of clothes ablaze in the lounge as he tried to get to Wood, who refused to budge despite his desperate pleas.

“The defendant eventually made her way to him and he tried to lead her out, but she tried to get back in,” added Mr Semple.

After getting Wood to safety, Mr Ellis - whose girlfriend lived in a neighbouring property - went back inside the building to rescue a dog belonging to one of the other tenants, neither of whom was in at the time. Mr Ellis put the flames out with a fire extinguisher then dashed upstairs to rescue the trapped pet.

Fire officers found a note written by Wood which said: “I’m sorry. I lost everything, but all I wanted to do was to be a good mum and a good wife. I love her.”

Police investigations revealed that Wood - now of Eversley Mount, Sherburn in Elmet, near Selby - had been in a relationship with a woman which had broken down. She had

moved out of the marital home and moved into a flat of her own, slowly sinking into depression and alcoholism.

However, Wood insisted it was not a suicide note and that she had intended to send it to her former partner.

Officers found three seats of fire inside the flat, including the burned remains of a sweatshirt - with a cigarette lighter next to it - in the lounge. They also found a fire-melted cloth on an electric oven which had been turned up full, as well as a burnt cardboard box filled with clothes. The fires caused about £700 of damage.

Mr Semple said Wood had also disabled a smoke detector by covering it with a plastic bag.

She appeared for sentence on Wednesday after admitting arson and being reckless as to whether lives would be endangered. Last week, York magistrates found her guilty of the sexual offence following a trial.

Wood’s lawyer Mark Partridge said she had “sought solace in alcohol, which seems to have driven both of these offences”.

It was said that the victim of the sexual offence on July 21 had earlier met Wood in a pub.

Judge Paul Batty QC said Mr Ellis’s bravery had saved Wood from “certain death” during the fire.

Wood sobbed uncontrollably as she was led down to the cells to start her four-year jail term.

She was also placed on the sex-offenders’ register for seven years.