Nightmare neighbour who set fire to Bramley home next door in "revenge attack" jailed

A Bramley woman who set fire to her next door neighbour's home in a "revenge attack" has been jailed for arson.

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Julie Towey, 53, was convicted of battery against her next door neighbour on Fairfield Crescent, Bramley in 2017.

Following the attack, there were "issues" between the defendant and her neighbour, prosecutor Richard Walters told Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday.

Julie Towey

In January 2022, Towey's neighbour went to live elsewhere.

However, Towey rang the neighbour on a number of occasions, telling her she "missed her" and on another occasion falsely accusing her of being outside her home.

"She was angry the complainant had not come to see her", Mr Walters told the court.

"In fact, she was in bed at home."

Shortly before midnight on February 20, CCTV footage caught Towey leaving her home address in a black dressing gown.

She went next door and stuffed something into the letter box with accelerant, the court heard.

This set fire to post at the other side of the door, while Towey returned to her own home.

"It was only a matter of good fortune the fire didn't spread", Mr Walters said.

Another neighbour - who was returning home from work - could smell burning and saw the door alight.

She filled a kettle with water and threw it onto the flames while calling the emergency services.

When the neighbour who had spotted the fire went to Towey's address, she feigned ignorance, the court was told.

Towey then rang the emergency services herself and said she was scared as there was a fire next door and she had heard banging on her door a few minutes before.

She was cautioned and arrested.

Towey was taken into custody and made no comment to all questions, before being released on police bail.

On April 3, the neighbour saw Towey outside her home smiling and waving at her.

She was again arrested for this breach and has been in custody since, the court heard.

Towey was "not clear" if her neighbour would've been in the home during the fire, the prosecutor told the court.

She pleaded guilty to one count of arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered at her plea and trial preparation hearing.

In mitigation, Samuel Ponniah said Towey had "slipped into alcoholism".

Mr Ponniah said Towey's mental health issues had been "compounded" by the pandemic and she was "not behaving as she should".

Towey has now left the street and would not be returning, he added.

Sentencing her, judge Judge Rodney Jameson QC described the incident as a "revenge attack".

The judge continued: "It is the opinion of fire officers that if not seen or extinguished by the fortunate return of a neighbour who saw what was happening, [the fire] could have caused catastrophic damage in a residential property.

"An immediate custodial sentence must follow, it is unavoidable."

Towey was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.

Following the sentencing, the judge commended the action's of Towey's neighbour who spotted and helped to extinguish the fire.

Judge Jameson QC continued: "Her actions were extremely important.

"If she had not intervened there could have been potentially catastrophic damage.

"She is very much to be thanked and commended for her actions."

Towey was also made subject to a restraining order.