Bideford flats arsonist jailed for four years

Samuel Oates. Pic: Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption Samuel Oates was found by police spraying lighter fluid in his face

An arsonist who was found spraying himself with lighter fluid after setting fire to a building has been jailed for four years.

Samuel Oates, 30, set fire to the building in South View Terrace, Bideford, which contained four flats.

The fire, in January, left two people in hospital.

Homeless Oates, formerly of Church Lane, Barnstaple, admitted arson and being reckless whether life was endangered at Exeter Crown Court.

As well as the two men taken to hospital, one other man who lived in the building needed oxygen at the scene, and four other residents were also left homeless.

'Very serious fire'

Oates was arrested nearby after starting the fire in the ground-floor flat on 18 January.

Officers found him smelling of fire, with a soot-blackened face which he was spraying with lighter fluid, the court heard.

He told police he would find their homes and burn them down.

Prosecutors said Oates had been drinking, as well as sniffing lighter fluid, and befriended one of the residents who allowed him to stay at the flats.

Mr Richard Crabb, defending, said Oates had enjoyed a career as an engineer but began drinking and abusing drugs after giving up his job to return to Devon to look after his father, who later died.

He said he had received treatment for depression and alcohol abuse and spent time at a residential project in Surrey before leaving in December 2011 and moving back to Devon.

Sentencing Oates to four years and a two-year extended licence, Judge Francis Gilbert said it was a "very serious fire."

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