Arsonist put neighbours' lives in danger by torching her Leeds council flat in a bid to get rehoused then told police: 'Mental health sufferers get everything'

A  Leeds council flat tenant put her neighbour's lives in danger by deliberately setting her home on fire in order to get rehoused.

Saturday, 12th December 2020, 6:00 am

A neighbour had to be rescued by firefighters after Linda Eckley set curtains alights at her flat at the flats block in Beeston.

The 54-year-old told told police after the incident she wanted to appear as if she had mental health problems in a bid to be moved to a new home.

Eckley told officers: "Mental health sufferers get everything."

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Arsonist Linda Eckley was jailed for 28 months for setting fire to her council flat in an attempt to get a new home.

A judge told Eckley her actions could have had "catastrophic consequences" as she was jailed for 28 months after pleading guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Leeds Crown Court heard a tenant living in the flat above Eckley on Cardinal Road heard her fire alarm go off at 7.30pm on January 30 this year.

The woman was cooking at the time and did not think it was anything serious.

The alarm continued to sound and she went to check the wiring on her boiler.

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Smoke had engulfed the flat below and had spread to a communal stairway.

The woman was treated at the scene for shock and smoke inhalation.

Eckley also received medical treatment and was spoken to by firefighters and paramedics.

The officers described how the defendant appeared to be acting strangely.

She told the officers she had started the fire after drinking vodka.

Eckley was asked if she had started the fire as a cry for help and she replied: "Yes it was."

As she was being escorted to hospital Eckley said: "I only set fire to the curtains. I did it with a lighter and it went out into the bedroom."

She made comments about not wanting to live at the flat any more and claimed the council would not help her.

She said: "I'm just going to cry mental health now. Mental health sufferers get everything."

Extensive damage was caused to the property.

Eckley, now of Kendal Close, Woodhouse, was interviewed about the incident and admitted that she had been reckless.

She said she started the fire after smoking crack cocaine and drinking three double vodkas.

A psychiatric reported stated that Eckley has "no enduring mental illness" and that alcohol and drug misuse was responsible for her depression.

Eckley's barrister told the court that the defendant believed she had been let down by the local authority as the flat had not been adapted for the physical difficulties she suffers from.

Sentencing Eckley, Judge Robin Mairs said: "(The neighbour) must have been terrified.

"She was left upstairs resigned to her fate. Only the timely entrance of the fire brigade stopped the spread of this fire and the potential catastrophic consequences.

"You have suffered from depression but in many way you are the author of your own misfortune."

The judge said the offence was too serious to impose anything other than an immediate prison sentence.

He added: "This was deliberate fire setting in a multi-occupancy premises where there was a risk of utter catastrophe."