Rapper 'targeted in arson attacks over disrespectful songs and drugs debt'

Teesside Crown Court.
Teesside Crown Court.

A drugs debt and a rapper's 'disrespectful' songs led to him being targeted in three arson attacks, a court heard.

Alan Smart is alleged to have started three fires, one in a car belonging to rapper David Baker, and two more at houses occupied by him.

David Roberts is alleged to have taken part in setting the fire at the second house by driving Smart to the scene.

Both men deny all the charges against them.

A jury at Teesside Crown Court heard the third fire, at a house in Princess Road, Seaham, was the most serious of the three.

"It was set at about 1am, and caused significant damage to the house," said Peter Makepeace QC, prosecuting.

"Several firefighters who attended immediately noticed the smell of petrol.

"Mr Baker and his partner Vicki Barnes had been to an Italian restaurant that evening.

"Ms Barnes felt unwell, and returned alone to the house, while Mr Baker went on to a casino.

"The prosecution say neither of the defendants knew Mr Baker wasn't in."

Ms Barnes was awoken by what she thought was an explosion, the court heard.

"She had taken a sleeping draught which would normally cause her to sleep through anything," said Mr Makepeace.

"She got up and found flames licking up the stairs and smoke filling the air.

"Disorientated, she went to her child's bedroom, but then remembered, thankfully, the child was spending the night with her mother.

"Ms Barnes then managed to squeeze through a tiny gap in her bedroom window, lower herself on to an outhouse roof, and jump down into the yard behind the house."

The jury heard Smart used two cars cloned to look like taxis - known among criminals as 'stunt cars' - to drive to the location of the fires.

Mr Makepeace said the prosecution does not have to establish a motive, but text messages exist which demonstrate Mr Baker owed money to Smart.

"Mr Smart was overheard saying how he annoyed he was Mr Baker had bought a new car while the debt was outstanding.

"Mr Baker was and remains a rap singer operating under the name of Baby B. He was producing rap songs seriously disrespectful to Smart."

The court heard hours before the third fire, Mr Baker had been visited by Asa Dobbing, a friend from football.

Ms Barnes overheard Mr Dobbing tell Mr Baker he had received a phone call saying 'tell Baker we know where he lives'.

Smart, 39, of Shrewsbury Crescent, Humbledon, Sunderland, denies arson on December 23 and 24, 2011, and arson with intent to endanger life on April 29, 2012.

Roberts, 54, of Sorley Street, Millfield, Sunderland, denies arson with intent to endanger life on April 29, 2012.

Both made no comment when interviewed by police.

Proceeding.