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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Cumbrian woman's Christmas tree blaze a cry for help

A woman set fire to her Christmas tree in a “cry for help” telling a friend she “felt like ending it all”.

Louise Ray photo
Louise Ray

Louise Ray, 33, texted a friend suggesting she was about to harm herself at her home in Walker Road, Salterbeck, Workington, in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

In the text message Ray said: “Dad has taken the knives and pills from the house so I’m going to set the tree on fire and die of smoke before I burn.”

Her friend informed police who visited Ray’s home.

Becky Macgregor prosecuting said: “The smoke alarm was sounding when the police arrived and smoke was pouring from the premises.

“They found the defendant in the lounge on the floor and the Christmas tree was on fire. There were glasses of liquid near her and she was drunk.

“She was arrested and became hysterical using a hairpin to harm herself by opening up wounds.”

Carlisle Crown Court was told yesterday that the blaze was started by a cigarette lighter.

Ray, at a previous court appearance, admitted a charge of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

Her barrister Alison Whalley said: “This is a very sad story of a lady who, until a few years ago, had her life in order.

“She used to be a manager at Ladbrokes but had to resign from her job.”

Ms Whalley said Ray was alone in her house.

She said: “This was a cry for help and there was very limited damage.

“The fire alarm sounded and she had informed her friend and the police.

“This was a wake-up call for her.”

Sentencing, Recorder Tina Landale said: “What happened in the early hours of New Year’s Day was very shocking and frightening for your friend, your neighbours, police, family and yourself.

“You are capable of living a responsible life but you found yourself at the beginning of this year in a situation that you could not control.

“Before setting fire to the Christmas tree in your home you gave no thought to the safety of other people and tried to take your own life.”

She imposed a two-year community order with a supervision requirement. Ray must attend an alcohol treatment programme, do 100 hours of unpaid work and pay a victim surcharge of £60.

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