Wednesday, 02 December 2015

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Arson accused ‘not arch villain’ Carlisle court told

Jurors trying a man accused of a spate of arson offences have been told he would not have been able to pull off the crimes.

Related: I was fire hero, Cumbrian arson accused tells trial

John Brown, 48, faces charges of lighting a total of 16 fires in Keswick – five of which spread to houses and put the lives of the occupants at risk.

His defending lawyer Greg Hoare told a jury at Carlisle Crown Court to think about what they had seen in the court.

“He is certainly not at risk of getting the Nobel Prize for anything is he,” he said. “He is not an arch villain is he?”

One of the blazes saw a pregnant woman and three children flee from their home on Windebrowe Avenue with the flames licking up the walls outside. It is alleged to have started after Brown set fire to a nearby garden shed.

In another, a woman in her 80s had to be rescued after her home – on the same street – went up in flames.

Other fires were lit in a car and a caravan and outside several business premises. Brown was allegedly nursing a grudge against two of these people after being reported for stealing from them.

Mr Hoare said much of the evidence given against Brown was “circumstantial”.

He added: “It would require an amount of luck and skilful planning on the part of Mr Brown to start fires in Keswick but leave no trace leading to him.”

Mr Hoare also pointed out that Brown had co-operated by answering questions from both the police and the court lawyers when he could have stayed silent.

The prosecution previously alleged that Brown started all the fires after he began drinking heavily as his 26-year marriage fell apart.

Brown – who lived in Windebrowe Avenue, where several of the fires occurred – has pleaded not guilty to a total of 21 charges of arson.

The jury has now gone out to consider a verdict as the trial continues.


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