AN ARSONIST who tried to fool prison officers into believing he was innocent is set to spend six years behind bars.
Neil Robert Hague was remanded in custody after he was arrested on suspicion of setting fire to the flat opposite his in Parson Cross, Sheffield.
The 49-year-old, who later pleaded guilty, sparked a huge blaze after dousing material with turpentine, setting light to it and posting it through the letterbox of the empty apartment in October last year.
Sheffield Crown Court heard he was arrested but denied the offence despite investigators finding the substance taken from his flat was the same accelerant used to start the fire.
While he was in jail, he penned a fake confession letter and told guards the anonymous sender was likely to be a family member with a vendetta against him.
But when officers searched his cell they recovered the same note paper the letter was written on, and forensic examination confirmed it was the work of Hague.
Simon Batiste, prosecuting, said a woman had been decorating the flat but had not moved in when the blaze, which spread inside the flat, was started, and the fire service found it had been started deliberately.
Mr Batiste said: “In custody in April he approached an officer claiming he received a letter he thought was from a member of his family. It suggested the anonymous person was responsible for the fire. When he was interviewed he still claimed the letter was sent to him and was part of a campaign against him.”
Hague admitted arson being reckless to the life of another and perverting the course of justice.
The defence disputed a psychiatric and pre-sentence report which linked Hague to other fires in the building, for which there was no evidence.
Sentencing, Judge Roger Keen QC said: “When you were living in a flat in a communal block in which other people lived, you went out across to the flat across and used an accelerant to set fire to the door, causing a tremendous danger to anyone else living there.
“It is difficult if not impossible to determine your reason for doing it.”
Hague, of Deerlands Avenue, Parson Cross, was sentenced to six years in prison.