Students jailed for flats blaze

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TWO Sheffield University students who put lives at risk when they set fire to their digs after getting “hopelessly and pathetically drunk” on an all-day drinking binge have been jailed for two years.

Daniel Gyi, aged 21, and Joshua Hart, 20, put a TV screen in an electric oven at the Endcliffe Student village in the early hours of June 26 2010 and then fled.

The resulting blaze caused £13,000 of damage.

Elizabeth Martin, prosecuting, said they hurled the telly off the top of the four-storey building, torched a chair then put the TV in the oven.

Within seconds thick, black toxic smoke billowed into the kitchen, but instead of alerting fellow students, they panicked, turned off the oven, put plastic carrier bags over smoke alarms and fled.

Five girls asleep in a neighbouring flat were alerted after Jake Nalton and Ben Rigby were woken by heat detectors.

All escaped unharmed but told police they were in fear for their lives.

The defendants returned an hour later to find firefighters at the scene and lied about their involvement.

Maths and Spanish student Hart told police: “We didn’t know what to do so we went for a walk. Then we came back and pretended we didn’t know.”

Gyi, studying biomedical sciences, told officers it was “mindless destruction” and he was “in a party mood”.

The men, both of Cobden View Road, Crookes, admitted causing criminal damage being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Peter McCartney, defending, said it was a “stupid, foolish student prank” and urged the judge not to jail them.

He said they were from good families, had excellent academic records and glowing references, both were “full of remorse” and neither would trouble the courts again.

Their families wept in the public gallery as Judge Peter Kelson QC said: “You got hopelessly and pathetically drunk and then set about appalling behaviour.

“You absented yourselves to avoid detection and you had no regard whatsoever to the danger caused to the seven other people in the flats.

“Doing the best I can to balance everything and with a heavy heart, knowing the sorrow and grief it will cause to your families, I sentence you both to an immediate custodial sentence of two years.”