St James' Hospital Becklin Centre evacuated after patient set fire to her room and caused £180,000 worth of damage to the mental health facility

A patient set fire to her room in a mental health facility based a St James Hospital and caused over £180,000 worth of damage.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:45 am

All wards at the Becklin Centre had to be evacuated and six patients needed first aid after the blaze started by Claire Walker.

Leeds Crown Court heard Walker used a lighter to set fire to clothes she had put on top of a mattress after putting it in the corner of her room.

Patients had to be given breathing apparatus and one woman was taken to casualty to be treated for smoke inhalation.

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Becklin Centre.

The incident, on May 23, 2018, cost the NHS £180,490 to repair.

Walker, 36, was given a section 37 hospital order under the Mental Health Act after pleading guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Adam Birkby, prosecuting, said Walker has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and a history of committing arson offences..

She has previously set fire to her own hair, a bin, a coat, and a mattress.

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The ward was on the second floor, had around 20 patients and was staffed by four or five people.

Walker regularly broke the strict no smoking indoors policy and had a history of being aggressive and violent towards staff members.

Two paramedics were coming onto the ward to help a patient after midnight when the smoke alarm went off.

Walker said: "This is what happens when nobody comes to help."

A nurse asked her what she meant and she replied: "Did you not hear me shouting?"

The building was evacuated and Walker was seen smiling, laughing and trying to get back into the building.

She later said to the nurse: "It was an accident, don't twist my words."

All patients were described as panicked.

In her police interview she said she was upset and angry and set alight fire retardant curtains.

Walker said she tried to put out the flames when it caught fire but it got out of control.

The prosecutor said the seat of the fire was actually a mattress that had been placed in a corner and had combustible items placed on top of it.

The court was also told Walker's condition was often made worse by her refusal to take her medication.

She appeared in court via a video link from Newton Lodge Fieldhead Hospital in Wakefield.

Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said the hospital order allows Walker to be detained at the hospital to receive treatment for an indefinite period of time.