A PRISON inmate from West Yorkshire has died after serving nearly 30 years for setting a fire that caused just £5.60 worth of damage.
James Dunn was locked up in 1985 after drunkenly pushing burning paper through the letterbox of a shop in Wakefield.
Although he was sentenced to life, the minimum period he was ordered to serve was three-and-a-half years.
But Mr Dunn was never freed, despite being considered for parole on at least 12 occasions.
He spent his last years in poor health in HMP Norwich and died of natural causes aged 65.
Today his grandson, Steven Race, described the case as “a tragedy”.
Mr Race, of Harehills, Leeds, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Even staff at the prison couldn’t understand why he was still there.” Mr Dunn began committing offences such as arson and hoax emergency calls after witnessing the death of his brother in a house fire when he was aged about 10.
He had just finished an eight-year spell in jail when he shoved lit envelopes bearing his name and address through a letterbox in Wakefield city centre’s Bull Ring following a day’s drinking. A carpet tile and paintwork were damaged.
Mr Dunn, from Lupset in Wakefield, told police he was haunted by his brother’s death and had not intended to hurt anyone.
By 2005 he had made 10 unsuccessful bids for parole, with an expert from Rampton Hospital concluding that jail could serve “no further purpose for him”.
Five years earlier Mr Dunn had told the YEP: “The authorities can be sure I will not reoffend as I don’t want to lose the trust and respect of my family and friends.
“Alcohol is out as I am on tablets for life and I’m advised to avoid drink as it could kill me. Don’t you think I have done enough time?”
A Prison Service spokeswoman today said that Mr Dunn had died while receiving treatment in an “outside hospital” on October 19.
She went on: “As with all deaths in custody, the Independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”
A spokesman for the Parole Board confirmed that Mr Dunn had most recently been turned down for release in 2008 and 2011. He was unable to elaborate on the reasons for the decisions.