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Man jailed for starting blaze at neighbour’s flat while children slept in bed

James Colvin is led away to prison from Aberdeen Sheriff Court. Picture by Kenny Elrick/DCT Media.
James Colvin is led away to prison from Aberdeen Sheriff Court. Picture by Kenny Elrick/DCT Media.

A Fraserburgh man has been jailed after he set fire to his neighbour’s home while two children slept in their beds.

James Colvin, 26, set light to toilet paper and dropped it through the letterbox before spraying deodorant on the flames.

A backpack that was hanging in the hallway caught light and a larger blaze was only prevented when the property’s fire alarm went off.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court was told two young children, their parents and an elderly relative were asleep in the flat at the time.

Colvin was snared by police when they linked his DNA and the toilet tissue pattern – which was the same as the brand in his flat – to the blaze.

He pleaded guilty to one charge of wilful fire-raising at the Moray Road property.

Dad grabbed burning items

Fiscal depute Ruaridh McAlister told the court that around 1.30am on February 4 2020 the owners were awoken in their beds by their fire alarm going off and the dad went to investigate.

He said: “He immediately exited the bedroom and exited the hallway where he observed smoke and small flames coming from the area where jackets and a rucksack were hanging from a peg.

“To prevent any further damage or danger to his family he took hold of the burning items and ran with them towards the main door and threw them outside.

“After the burning items had been removed, the witness saw that there were two deodorant cans and a toilet roll lying on the floor where the burning items had been in the hallway.

“These items had not been there before the witness had gone to bed and did not belong to anyone at the property.”

When police arrived they seized the aerosol cans and found burnt toilet paper within the brush area of the letterbox.

A forensic examination detected Colvin’s DNA on one of the deodorant cans.

Police officers were granted a search warrant of his home on March 14 and found toilet paper that matched the pattern found at the scene.

James Colvin is led away to prison from Aberdeen Sheriff Court. Supplied by Kenny Elrick/DCT Media.

Accused told cops he ‘panicked’ and ran away

Upon being interviewed by police Colvin immediately admitted that he was responsible for the fire.

He also told police that he was “struggling” at the time due to not having access to his children and was taking “significant quantities of controlled drugs and alcohol”.

During the interview, he stated that he “panicked” and ran from the address but tried to go back 20 minutes later to put out the fire and saw the father putting out the burning backpack.

Defence agent Sam Milligan told the court that Colvin “did not especially know that house other than they were neighbours” nor did he hold any “personal grudge” against the family.

He added: “That makes an explanation for this more difficult rather than less.

“The situation is that Mr Colvin accepts responsibility for these actions and he has also asked me to stress that he appreciates that things could have been much worse.

“He had certain personal issues at that stage that caused him to turn to the abuse of drugs and alcohol – but that simply provides a degree of context rather than any explanation.”

It was also stated that Colvin had a previous conviction for a similar offence.

‘Extraordinarily dangerous’

Sheriff William Summers told Colvin: “At its simplest, you went into someone’s occupied home in the early hours of the morning where three adults and two children were sleeping and you set a fire and you left.

“That is both grossly irresponsible and extraordinarily dangerous.

“It is fortunate that the consequences were not far more serious.”

Sheriff Summers stated that the matter was “far too serious” to be dealt with by anything other than a custodial sentence.

He sentenced Colvin, of Moray Road, Fraserburgh, to 15 months imprisonment.

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