Drunk burglar sparked bird-seed blaze

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A DRUNK burglar caused an outhouse to go up in flames after accidentally setting fire to a bag of bird seed.

Karl Dryden, 40, broke into an elderly couple’s building in Wordsworth Avenue, Easington Lane, in the early hours of March 15 last year, leaving the owners “shocked and distressed”.

He was so inebriated, he set fire to a large bag of bird seed after using a lighter to assess what was worth stealing.

Dryden was arrested in another outhouse in South Hetton Road, Houghton, which he was in the process of burgling, and was found with a knife stolen from the first outhouse, its padlock and a box of matches.

He then had to be taken to hospital as he was “unresponsive”.

Gavin Doig, prosecuting at Newcastle Crown Court, said: “He said the fire wasn’t started deliberately, but he was aware he had started it and didn’t try to put it out or notify anyone.

“He was probably using his lighter to see what was worth stealing inside the shed.

“No accelerant was used – there’s no suggestion of anything of that sort.”

Paul Cross, defending, said: “To the elderly couple who were victims to the first burglary, the fire caused them shock and distress.

“Possibly, they maybe now have come to terms with this.”

Dryden, of Derwent Street, South Hetton, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and one of arson.

He had already spent 145 days on an electronically monitored curfew.

Judge John Evans sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, a six-month drug rehabilitation order and told him to pay £54 compensation.