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How arsonist Matthew Taylor came close to causing catastrophe at Leeds tower block

Judge Guy Kearl said it was Matthew Taylor’s intention to start a blaze on different floors of high-rise block Poplar Mount in west Leeds.

Callous Taylor arranged rubbish bags into a pile outside the ground floor entrance in the early hours of the morning of March 4 this year before setting fire to them.

Matthew Taylor.

Matthew Taylor.

A rubbish bag was then placed into the lift, set alight, and taken to the top floor of the 11-storey block in Bramley, Taylor got out of the lift but left the burning rubbish bag inside and sent it back to the ground floor.

Arsonist placed more than 100 lives at risk by torching Leeds tower block

Every button in the lift was pressed so it would stop at each floor on the way down.

The lift travelled from the top to the bottom of the flats on three occasions.

Taylor continued to put more rubbish on the fire each time it arrived at the top.

Firefighters were contacted and managed to extinguish the blaze.

Taylor was interviewed by police after being recognised on CCTV footage of the incident by a housing officer who had recently done an inspection at the defendant’s flat.

He continued to deny any involvement despite evidence linking him to the incident.

Taylor claimed he had been at his girlfriend’s but records showed he had used his key fob to enter Poplar Mount around the time of the blaze.

The second attempt to cause devastation within the building happened in the early hours of May 11.

Stairwell doors on the seventh floor were tied together before they were torched using flammable liquid.

Judge Kearl said: “Simply by good fortune someone called the fire brigade and they put the fire out. As before, the greatest hazard was to those who were asleep inside their flats between the seventh and eleventh floors.

“You were sealing off the exit routes, preventing other occupants leaving the block.

“This meant that had the fire spread as you intended, they would have been trapped with no escape route.” Taylor torched the front door of his partner’s home and the front door of her next door neighbour on Henley Place, Bramley, the next day.

He waited until his partner left to go to work around 4.30am before targeting both homes.

His partner’s friend was asleep on the sofa when he put a blanket into the letter box and set it alight after locking the door. Taylor went back to bed but the woman was woken by the fire alarm. She burnt her hand on the door as she tried to get out. Firefighters arrived and told the woman to lean out of an upstairs window to get fresh air while the blaze was extinguished.

Taylor was woken up in bed but “seemed reluctant to become involved.”