AN ARSONIST who set fire to his lover’s house after reacting angrily to a comment about his dead brother has been jailed.
Louis Downs started two fires at the property in Deerness Road, Hendon, while the occupant, Paul Wilson, slept upstairs.
Mr Wilson’s bedroom was engulfed in thick smoke, causing him difficulty in breathing, and he was lucky not to have been killed.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that the pair had forged an “unusual” relationship after a drunk Downs had arrived at Mr Wilson’s home one night, claiming that his brother, Matt, used to live there.
The 21-year-old told Mr Wilson that his brother had died in 2010 from cancer.
Mr Wilson, who is a youth worker, invited Downs in as he had dealt with adults with similar problems, and then allowed him to stay the night, the court heard.
Downs then made frequent early-morning visits to Mr Wilson’s home, and the two began to have a consensual sexual relationship.
But a deeply “emotional” Downs suddenly became aggressive after Mr Wilson offered him advice on coping with the loss of his brother.
Sue Hirst, prosecuting, told the court: “Mr Wilson made a comment that the defendant had to move on. The comment clearly upset the defendant.
“Without warning, he struck Mr Wilson on the top of the head.”
Despite the attack, Downs and Mr Wilson still continued to meet each other and have sex at the house.
But on the April 3, after another visit, an intoxicated Downs started two fires in the living room and kitchen while Mr Wilson was asleep upstairs.
Miss Hirst said: “He was awoken by the smoke alarm. His bedroom was full of smoke and he was struggling to breathe.
“Mr Wilson managed to extinguish the flames himself and then ran to the nearest premises to call the police.
“The defendant had given Mr Wilson a false name, but he was able to identify him by a scar across his face.”
The court heard that Downs had experienced a troubled childhood and suffered from learning and emotional difficulties.
Bob Spragg, defending, added that his state of mind of significantly worsened after the death of his brother.
He said: “This is an unusual case. He is a young man who has had great difficulty in his life and had to go to a special school.
“The death of his brother in 2010 left him unable to cope properly. He coped by misusing alcohol and drugs.”
He added: “He accepts that, obviously, his behaviour was reckless. He doesn’t seek to blame anyone but himself.”
Downs, of Tower Street, Hendon, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was jailed for three years.