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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Cumbrian men honoured for saving people from arsonist

Three heroes who put themselves at risk to save the lives of others from a serial arsonist have been honoured with special commendations.

Keswick fire men photo
The High Sheriff of Cumbria Martyn Hart with Ryan Forsyth, Mike Charlton and Lee Newton

Lee Newton, 34, Mike Charlton, 39, and 19-year-old Ryan Forsyth were praised by the High Sheriff and Judge Paul Batty during a ceremony at Carlisle Crown Court.

The trio all helped avert tragedy during a series of attacks that led to a serial arsonist being jailed for life.

Lee and Mike joined forces to rescue an elderly woman after fire broke out in her home. In a separate arson attack, Ryan’s quick-thinking helped rescue his family while their house burnt down.

They all went on to give evidence which helped convict John Brown, 48, of Windebrowe Avenue, Keswick, who was sentenced in March for 15 counts of arson following a two-year campaign of starting fires around the town.

Yesterday, the heroes were among five people honoured for going the extra mile.

Also receiving commendations were Kevin Miller, of Kendal, who intervened during an attempted murder, and Elizabeth Logan, of Barrow, who alerted police to two conmen posing as window cleaners to steal from vulnerable pensioners.

The first incident happened on December 11, 2012 while Lee was out for a run.

He spotted smoke coming from a house and flagged down a work van, driven by his friend Mike. The pair broke down the door and carried the occupant, a woman in her 80s, to safety.

Mike said: “She was just sat on a sofa in the back. The fire was in the front but smoke was going right through.

“She was sat doing a crossword, unaware that the room was filling with smoke.”

Judge Batty said: “These two men bravely entered the smoke-filled house and got the elderly resident out. Had they not done so, in all likelihood she would have perished.”

In Ryan’s case, the incident happened at his family home. He said: “My mum was downstairs asleep on the sofa, my brother was in his room and I was in mine. The garage was directly below. I heard a noise and went downstairs. My mum hadn’t heard anything.”

Then just a teenager, he raised the alarm and got everyone out.

It turned out that a car in the garage was on fire and later exploded.

Judge Batty said: “He led members of his family to safety then gave pivotal and vital evidence. The case against the defendant was a circumstantial one. The evidence of these three was important in prosecuting and successfully convicting this person.”

High Sheriff Martyn Hart presented awards to all five heroes.

Afterwards he said: “Clearly there are quite a lot of heroic individuals who go above and beyond the norm and put themselves in jeopardy to help others. Having done that, it’s only right that the court, High Sheriff and the county record their valour. I’m proud to have met them.”

Afterwards the heroes remained modest about their exploits, stating that they just did what anyone would have done.

Hero lifeboat crews – pages 10&11

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