Falklands veteran tried to set fire to Northampton pub where three-year-old was sleeping upstairs

Northampton Crown Court NNL-140423-093950001
Northampton Crown Court NNL-140423-093950001

A 56-year-old man who tried to set fire to a Northampton pub twice in the same evening has been jailed for two years after he pleaded guilty to arson.

Stephen Watts, of Dallington Haven, Northampton, appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday after admitting trying to set fire to The Wheatsheaf pub in Dallington on September 7 last year.

The court heard Watts was spotted acting “oddly” during the evening and, at 11.30pm, a customer reported a fire in the men’s toilets.

Gary Short, prosecuting, said it was discovered that someone had deliberately set on fire the curtains in the toilets.

Mr Short said: “After the fire the defendant was seen acting suspiciously by the bar.”

At midnight, Watts was then seen on the pub’s CCTV cameras leaving the pub and then going over to where the bins were.

Watts was seen to make 10 attempts to set fire to the bins, which were situated next to the thatched roof pub. The court heard a three-year-old boy was asleep in a bedroom just above where the bins were placed.

Mr Short said that Watts managed to set the bins alight on his twelfth attempt and within a couple of minutes the flames were lashing against the wall of the pub.

The blaze was spotted by one of the bar’s customers and was extinguished by staff before it got out of control.

Mr Short said: “The defendant was seen by the pub landlady hiding behind a bush at the rear of the pub and he then left the vicinity.”

Stephen Evans, defending, said his client could give no explanation for winy he started the fire.

Mr Evans said Watts was a Falklands War veteran and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Judge Timothy Smith, sentencing, said it was fortunate that both fires were extinguished quickly.

He said: “This could well have resulted in far more significant injuries or loss of life.”

Watts was sentenced to two years and four months in jail. He is likely to serve half is sentence in prison and the rest on licence.