An arsonist who set fire to an empty house next door to a family of nine – including seven children – has been jailed.
Christopher Tschida broke into the empty property which was under renovation on Toward Road in Sunderland on May 25 last year.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how the 31-year-old had broken into the home, which a tenant was due to move in to, and lit a fire with the intention to cook heroin.
Peter Schofield, prosecuting, said that the fire got out of control and caused approximately £10,000 in damage to the back bedroom.
Mr Schofield told the court: “Next door was occupied by a family of nine including seven children.
“The defendant gained entry to the premises and set a fire with a combustible substance.
“Thanks to a neighbour, who heard banging and saw the front door open with a shadow of the defendant (going inside the property), the police and fire brigade were called, preventing a more serious situation.”
Tschida, of Canon Cockin Street, Sunderland, was arrested in the front upstairs bedroom of the address with a small amount of cannabis on him and the fire was quickly put out.
In interview Tschida said he had had a row with his wife and went into the premises for no particular reason.
Vic Laffey, defending, said Tschida had experienced a total breakdown in his relationship and his partner did not know his whereabouts at the time of the offence.
Mr Laffey said: “The defendant has problems with drugs and used those drugs as an inappropriate way of coping with his (relationship) problems.”
He added that there were no furnishings in the house at the time of the fire and Tschida did not present a risk to the public.
Tschida pleaded guilty to committing arson recklessly and possession of class B drugs.
Recorder Mr Eric Elliot QC told Tschida: “Next door to the property was a family of nine that included children.
“It was extremely fortunate that the damage was done to the property only (and not to the family).
“Fortunately a catastrophe was avoided.”
Recorder Elliot QC sentenced Tschida to 30 months in prison.
He was also ordered to pay a £120 fine.