A Lossiemouth man who deliberately started a large gorse fire in the coastal town last summer left identifying documents at the scene.
Paul Smith, 21, was seen acting suspiciously beside the Silver Sands caravan park shortly before two gorse bushes were set alight on July 10 last year.
Firefighters were swiftly sent to the scene, but by the time they arrived were faced with what witnesses said was a significant fire.
Police officers who also attended were soon on Smith’s trail, having carried out a search of the sand dunes adjacent to where the blaze was thought to have started.
They discovered court letters addressed to Smith, together with medication packets that also bore his details.
He was traced, still close to the scene, later on that evening and taken to Elgin police station where he admitted “setting fires on the beach next to bushes” but could not tell officers why.
At Elgin Sheriff Court yesterday, Smith, of St Margarets Crescent in Lossiemouth, pled guilty to wilful fire-raising and possession of a stanley knife.
He also pled guilty to sending sexual communications to two girls under the age of 16, though he claimed to have no idea they were not over 16.
Depute Fiscal Kevin Corrans told the court: “Gorse bushes were damaged, with witnesses detailing two primary seats of fire, one which was dealt with by residents of the park while the other was put out by firefighters.
“The residents used a hose, while the firefighters used beaters and knapsacks to put out the fires.
“It was described as quite a big circle of area that was burning, with gorses bushes at each side being set alight and then catching fire.”
Defence solicitor Robert Cruickshank told the court his client was “anxious and nervous” about the “precarious” situation he had found himself in.
He said: “Mr Smith’s mood was very low.
“Although there was some element of planning to the fire, there was no good reason why he did it.
“He is someone who is quite vulnerable and presents to me with a learning difficulty.
“I think a holistic sentence is the best approach here.
“While Mr Smith’s behaviour should not be excused, there are underlying background issues that need to be assessed.”
Sheriff Chris Dickson considered a custodial sentence due to the seriousness of the offences but stopped just short.
Instead, he ordered Smith to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and placed him under the supervision of social workers for three years.
He also placed Smith on the sex offenders register for a period of three years with conduct requirements that he keep police aware of any electronic devices he has and has does not contact any female under the age of 16.