Homeless man started string of blazes

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A HOMELESS man started a series of fires in hospitals and hotels including Sheffield and Rotherham.

Thomas Ashcroft used the blazes as a distraction so he could steal from tills in the buildings which were being evacuated.

The 34-year-old admitted six charges of arson, burglary and attempted burglary relating to incidents at the Hilton Hotel in Sheffield and two hospitals in Kent.

He also asked for similar incidents at Rotherham District General Hospital, Manchester Midland Hotel, The Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton, Sea Life Centre, Brighton, Dome Theatre, Brighton, Hilton Hotel, South Terminal Gatwick, Crawley Hospital, East Sussex, The Cafe, Ramsgate, to be taken into account.

All the fires were set between March and August this year.

Ashcroft will be sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on December 7.

Det Insp Lee Whitehead, from Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Ashcroft’s offending was widespread, spanning several counties. His motivation for fire setting appears to have been to cause sufficient distraction to commit burglaries.

“His selfish actions led to several hospitals being evacuated putting vulnerable patients at further risk. Thankfully no-one was injured in these incidents.”

He said cooperation between emergency services from many counties had prevented further offences.