Sunderland arsonist set fire to his own parents' home after demanding £20 from dad

An arsonist who set fire and caused damage to his own family home after demanding money from his parents has been jailed.

Tuesday, 28th May 2019, 16:26 pm
Matthew Gray

Matthew Gray, 22, set light to a wheelie bin in the garage and used a spanner to smash the front room window in a drug-and-drink-fuelled rage.Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court that just after midnight on February 13 this year, Gray turned up to the family home, a semi-detached property on Stansted Close, Sunderland and, "demanded that his dad give him £20"."Mr Gray described himself as being very intimidated by his son's behaviour," he said.His father, Frederick Gray, would not give him the money at which point his son, who was 21 at the time, "said he would smash the house up and put all of the windows out," the court heard.

He then took a spanner from the garage and smashed the front room window. The court heard Mr Gray cycled away to leave his son to calm down.

Matthew Gray

Mr Hadfield said: "When he went back moments later his son was sitting in the now open garage still demanding money."When Mr Gray realised the wheelie bin was ablaze in the garage, he called his wife and daughter, who had left the house before he arrived, and they contacted the police and fire brigade.The court heard how when the police arrived they found the garage fully engulfed in flames.

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Mr Hadfield said: "When the police arrived the fire was large. Mr Gray was in the smoke filled property trying in vain to put the fire out."Police body-cam footage played to the court showed the blaze in the garage as they arrived.Officers entered the property and got Mr Gray, who was carrying a pan of water, out of the house before checking to see if anyone else remained inside or in any neighbouring homes.The fire brigade then arrived and begin hosing down the blaze.The court heard how a neighbour reported seeing Gray climb out of a bedroom window before police arrived and sit on top of the garage, looking as though he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.He then took off on foot but was found hiding in some nearby bushes at about 1.20am by police officers who described him as uncooperative under arrest.While with the police Mr Hadfield said Gray "deliberately spat at the detention officer."The court heard that the family had struggled with Gray's behaviour in the past, describing him as "out of control" due to his drug and alcohol addiction.Mr Hadfield told the court that Gray's mother, who has health issues, has to jump in the car when he begins to become aggressive in order to avoid her health worsening and the family have put locks on their bedroom doors to keep themselves safe.In his victim impact statement, Mr Gray said: "He's addicted to drugs and he's torn our family apart."Matthew ruins our lives and we live in fear of him."I just want my family to be safe and this can't be done with Matthew living under our roof."The court heard that since making that statement, Mr Gray had requested that a restraining order would not be a part of his son's sentence and he would be welcome back at the address if he behaves himself.Jennifer Coxon, defending said Gray fully accepts responsibility for what happened and was working on his relationship with his family.She said: "Since he has been in prison he has been very fortunate to have his family visit him in prison and to discuss not only his behaviour that night but also over the previous years."He tells me he's extremely sorry for what he's done. He realises the very serious impact it has had on his family."Ms Coxon added that Gray knew their next door neighbours were on holiday and therefore not in the adjoining property.Gray pleaded guilty to assault of an emergency worker at an earlier hearing at a magistrates' court on February 14.

He later pleaded guilty to damage of property and "arson being reckless" at a hearing on March 14 at Newcastle Crown Court.He was found not guilty of arson with intent at the sentencing hearing today.Recorder Moran told Gray: "Your behaviour was completely obnoxious."This appears to be effectively an act of spite because your parents wouldn't give you the money you were asking for."Recorder Moran took a letter Gray's sister had written to him into consideration when sentencing and said it was to Gray's family's credit that they will welcome him back into their lives.He sentenced Gray to a total of three and a half years.

A screen shot from bodycam footage
A screen shot from bodycam footage
A screen shot from bodycam footage
A screen shot from bodycam footage
A screen shot from bodycam footage