Man affected by Covid restrictions who torched his own flat in 'cry for help' is jailed at Leeds Crown Court

A lonely man who torched his flat in a 'cry for help' during Covid restrictions has been handed a two-year jail sentence.

By Nick Frame
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 9:44 am

Damon Seifert rang 999 and told them he was going to set fire to his curtains and stay in his Normanton flat to watch the flames, prompting the police and fire service to be deployed.

Leeds Crown Court was told that the 43-year-old suffers from low intelligence which is a borderline disability.

Prosecutor Chloe Hudson said Seifert phoned the emergency line at 9pm on October 3, and then twice more in a matter of minutes, saying he had then torched his curtains.

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Damon Seifert rang 999 and told them he was going to set fire to his curtains (Photo: WYP)

He told the call handler that he was "stressed" and fed up of living in the block of flats on Beckbridge Way saying he was being bullied by other tenants.

When the police and fire service arrive, the fire alarm was sounding and the building had to be evacuated.

Seifert had already left his flat and because of the smoke, fire crews were unable to access his flat without breathing apparatus.

Seifert, who has no previous convictions, later admitted a charge of arson that was reckless as to whether the life was endangered.

He appeared in court via video link from HMP Doncaster where was being held on remand.

Mitigating, Jade Edwards told the hearing that Seifert was an "unhappy and lonely man" who suffers from mental problems badly exacerbated by the pandemic.

She said that mental health services he often accessed prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 had changed or reduced and he would often wait for call-backs from staff that never came.

She said: "It's an unfortunate consequence of the pandemic. The feelings of being isolated has been far greater.

"He felt trapped and was being bullied by those around him.

"Having to stay at home he had no escape from that environment. It was a cry for help.

"He is now medicated and says he is better than he was, but he acknowledges he can't ask for help like that in future."

Judge Tom Bayliss QC dismissed Miss Edwards' plea to suspend the inevitable jail sentence and told Siefert: "You knew what you were doing, for all your intellectual difficulties, you must have realised the risk it posed to others."

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