Tragic Kettering arson incident left woman with recurring nightmares

The arsonist had been on remand since August but has now been freed from prison

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 7:00 am

A Kettering woman who struggled to cope after the sudden death of her husband set fire to her flat in an act of desperation.

Yvonne Kenworthy locked her doors and had to be dragged from her bed by firefighters after refusing to leave, with the incident leaving a neighbour who had to call 999 suffering from recurring nightmares.

Kenworthy was later charged with reckless arson and held in custody at HMP Peterborough, where she was for six months after the incident on August 30 last year.

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Northampton Crown Court.

The 63-year-old faced a sentence of up to six years in prison - but on Friday (March 5) she was freed from custody after a judge ruled the case was so exceptional that he could suspend a prison sentence.

Northampton Crown Court heard the devastating incident started at her council-owned ground floor flat in Judith Road on the Grange estate at about 5pm.

A mum-of-two who lived in the maisonette above was alerted to the sound of a smoke alarm and saw black smoke coming from Kenworthy's flat.

She called 999 and started banging on the window and shouting to her, but there was no reply. When firefighters attended they found the doors locked and had to force their way into the flat, where they found a fire in the hallway

Prosecuting, Adam Pearson said: "They put it out and found her (Kenworthy) in bed. She refused to leave."

Kenworthy was taken to KGH to be treated for smoke inhalation, before admitting starting the blaze which caused £2,000 worth of damage.

The court heard she had previously been trying to call emergency services and social services but took to drink and started the fire "in desperation".

Those living nearby had previously heard her say words to the effect that she had "no option" but to set fire to her flat to take her own life, the court heard.

Mr Pearson said: "She said she did not put it out but did not think of the consequences."

He said the woman who had to call 999 suffered from recurring nightmares about a repeat of the incident, and had concerns about having to move house if Kenworthy returned.

Mr Pearson said: "It has caused sleepless nights."

The court heard there was a "significant risk of serious harm" to those above Kenworthy's flat, where the fire and smoke was starting to spread.

His Honour Judge David Herbert QC told Kenworthy, who admitted reckless arson: "The risk to them had the fire spread further was significant and very real."

Mitigating, David Dainty said Kenworthy had not coped after the sudden death of her husband in December 2019, who was the "bright point" in her life.

He said that her health had rapidly deteriorated in recent months and that transport had been arranged to take her to be looked after at a care home if she was released.

He said: "She wishes to express through me her regret and remorse for her actions...she has made clear that this is never going to happen again."

Judge Herbert said the circumstances were exceptional enough to bring the sentence down to 20 months in prison, which he suspended for two years so she could be released.

He said: "This court comes across many sad cases. This is one of them."

As she left the videolink room at HMP Peterborough a teary Kenworthy said: "Thank you very much."