A man who set fire to an elderly widow’s house after mistaking it for David Cameron’s home has been detained today under the Mental Health Act.
Joseph Stead, 35, had planned to petrol bomb the ex-Prime Minister’s home in the village of Dean, near Witney, Oxfordshire, but struck the house next door, a judge heard.
It is clear that Stead, a paranoid schizophrenic, had made homophobic accusations against Cameron and printed out pictures of his house.
An Oxford Crown Court judge ordered that Stead be held in a secure psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act because he posed a risk to the public.
It was heard yesterday how obsessed Stead set fire to the wrong house and set fire to an £800,000 farm owned by an 82-year-old woman – who was staying in her son’s house at the time – on 9 March last year.
He was stopped by the woman’s son and grandson, while police later found searches for Mr Cameron on his computer.
Judge Nigel Daly sentenced the arsonist to a restricted section 41 hospital order: “I believe there is a real risk that if he is discharged from the hospital, if he is not under the day-to-day care of persons who are confident that he is taking his medicines.” properly, there would be a risk to the public of serious harm from him.”
Joseph Stead, 35, had planned to petrol bomb the ex-Prime Minister’s house in the village of Dean, near Witney, Oxfordshire, but struck the house next door (pictured above), a judge heard
Checks on Stead’s computer revealed that he had searched the Internet for the village where former Conservative leader David Cameron (pictured in May this year) lived
Prosecutor Jonathan Stone said Stead had traveled from his home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, through Aylesbury and Oxford to the village of Dean, near Chipping Norton.
Checks on his computer revealed that he had searched the Internet for the village where the former Conservative leader lived.
Mr Stone said Stead was seen in Dean around 10pm drinking bottled alcohol. At 10:30 PM he called the fire brigade and told the call handler about a fire in the village. A neighbor also called 999.
A fire report found that the blaze that destroyed the house was caused by a petrol bomb thrown through a window below. Inside the house, the remains of a bottle of liquor and a petrol-soaked cloth were found.
In a victim statement, the owner — a widowed farmer who had lived in the property since the 1960s — said the news was brought by her daughter shortly after midnight.
Summarizing her feelings when she learned of the fire, she said, “Hurdemic, furious and shocked that anyone, regardless of their feelings, could do such a thing.”
The house was valued at £800,000 before the fire, and the plot is now worth about half that amount.
She had lost personal mementos of her late husband in the conflagration, as well as family photos, her books, and a collection of crochet squares she hoped to make into blankets for her great-grandchildren.
The house was valued at £800,000 before the fire, and the plot is now worth about half that amount
A fire report found that the fire that destroyed the house was started by a petrol bomb thrown through a window. The remains of a bottle of liquor and a cloth soaked in petrol (above) were found
Judge Daly learned that Stead was arrested on the spot while making bizarre racist and homophobic comments about David Cameron.
The arsonist later told psychiatrists that he went to see Dean after reading articles online. The fire was intended to be a ‘threat’ to Mr Cameron, but he had no intention of harming him.
Stead, formerly of Wellingborough, admitted the arson was reckless or put life in danger. He had no previous convictions.
Soothingly, Graham Blower said his client had been treated for paranoid schizophrenia since his arrest in a psychiatric ward and responded well to the treatment. He had shown insight into his behavior.
Judge Daly praised Stead for accepting the help he was offered, but was concerned about the possibility that he would stop taking his medication if released into the community.