Scarborough's Gaynor Hibbert jailed after torching her own house and assaulting police officers

A Scarborough woman has been jailed for 14 months after drunkenly torching her own house with lighter fuel.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:42 pm

Gaynor Hibbert, 47, was jailed on Monday for a bizarre and potentially catastrophic incident in which she poured fuel on flammable items inside her semi-detached house in Scarborough.

Prosecutor Denise Breen-Lawton said a female neighbour saw Hibbert drinking from a can of beer outside her home several hours before the fire at about 7.30pm on July 29 last year.

She heard shouting and went out to her back yard where she saw Hibbert standing next to a fence, beyond which she noticed smoke coming from her neighbour’s kitchen.

Gaynor Hibbert.

Hibbert told her neighbour: “I’ve set my house on fire.”

The neighbour, who was named in court, asked Hibbert where her dog was because she was concerned for the animal’s welfare. She then called the fire service and went to Hibbert’s property, where she let her dog out.

When police arrived at the property in Harvest Way, Eastfield, they found Hibbert at the back of her house.

She told them: “I’ve set fire to my own house.”

She told officers she had started the fire with “petrol”. She later claimed she had started it with a barbecue lighter.

She said she had gone into the kitchen and set fire to the laminate floor.

A subsequent investigation found that the fire had caused smoke damage to ceilings throughout the ground floor of the property and there was “debris” on the floor which had been destroyed in the fire.

The property belonged to a housing association but Hibbert would be responsible for paying for repairs, the vale of which was unknown.

She ultimately pleaded guilty to arson and being reckless as to whether life would be endangered at a previous hearing in December, when the case was adjourned for psychiatric reports.

Hibbert – who has a previous conviction for breaching a domestic-violence protection order and a police caution for assaulting an officer in 2017 – appeared for sentence on Monday via video link from Low Newton women’s prison after being remanded in custody.

Ms Breen-Lawton said the arson occurred about six weeks after Hibbert had a run-in with police which ended with her kicking out at officers.

The incident occurred on May 11 after police were called to her house in Eastfield by Hibbert’s husband who claimed he had been assaulted by his wife.

An officer arrested Hibbert, who was again in drink and became aggressive after being handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle.

“She turned onto her back and kicked (one of the officers) on the leg and (another named officer) on the chest,” added Ms Breen-Lawton.

Graham Parkin, for Hibbert, said his client had “voluntarily” been remanded in custody in January pending her sentence because “she is at the point where she feels that she is a risk to herself and others if she’s released”.

He said Hibbert now had “no home she can really go to” because she was in an “on-off” relationship with her husband and had “huge debts”.

Hibbert had had rocky relationships in the past and had an alcohol problem which stemmed from past trauma, most notably the death of her sister several years ago.

She had only started getting into trouble in 2017 not long after sister’s death, which Mr Parkin described as a “tragic situation”.

Judge Sean Morris said it was a “sad case”, adding: “This is a woman who worked all her life and (then) lost her sister.”

But he said the arson was so serious that only an immediate jail sentence would do, notwithstanding Hibbert’s relative lack of previous offending and her tragic life.

Jailing Hibbert for 14 months, Mr Morris told her: “Take this time to seek help inside.”