Lovelorn Derbyshire pensioner set fire to ex’s home in “revenge” attack

A lovelorn pensioner set fire to his former partner’s home in an “incredibly dangerous” late night “revenge” attack, a court heard.

Friday, 17th June 2022, 12:33 pm

Trevor Birks, 72, had been in a relationship with his victim for around two years, however he hatched a plan to set fire to her Heanor home after her “harsh words” when the love affair came to an end, Derby Crown Court heard.

Luckily, Birks’ victim, who is deaf, awoke and managed to put out the fire he set to her front door using petrol before it spread beyond her hallway.

Prosecutor Sarah Slater told how Birks was seen on the victim’s neighbours’ CCTV cameras around 12.30am on February 6.

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Springfield Avenue, Heanor, - where the fire was set

She said: “(The neighbour) could see the defendant walk down the drive to the house, sees a flash and then the figured returned.”

Another neighbour had footage of a vehicle arriving around 12.30am.

Ms Slater said: “He recognised the vehicle as the vehicle of the defendant and then sees the defendant getting out of the vehicle.

"The defendant walked down the driveway to (the victim’s address) and then returned.”

Birks appeared at Derby Crown Court

The court heard Birks was in the street for around 30 minutes on the night the fire was lit before leaving.

He was arrested the day after and a search of his home revealed two petrol cans in a bedroom and one in a greenhouse outside.

Luckily damage to his victim’s house was limited to the front door and a doormat and flooring inside.

Birks’ former partner described in a statement read out in court being in a relationship with the defendant for around two years, although the pair never lived together.

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She said: “It was always my decision not to move in with Trevor, however I’m aware that this was what Trevor wanted to happen.

"The whole incident has left me traumatised – I know struggle to sleep and I don’t feel safe in my own home.

"If I hadn’t acted quickly and put the fire out things could have ended very differently. I’m also deaf and this happened while I was sleeping at night.”

Kevin Waddington, defending Birks, said his client’s motivation in setting the fire was the victim’s “harsh words” during the break-up rather than the break-up itself.

He told how Birks, who had no previous convictions, suffered from “severe depression” which had been a feature of “his entire adult life” and had showed signs of neurodegenerative disease.

Asking the judge to suspend a prison term, Mr Waddington said Birks needed “considerable” support from mental health services and his condition was liable to deteriorate in prison.

Recorder Simon King told Birks: “You have made it into your 70s without any criminal convictions until now – from the references I’ve read it seems clear to me that you have been a useful and considerate member of the community who has assisted others when requested.

"It seems to me quite clear that when you did this on February 6 you had intended to cause inconvenience – you plainly targeted (the victim).

"The prosecution say this is a case which involves significant psychological harm – there were elements of planning and revenge.

"There was a significant risk of serious harm but in fact but, putting it into effect, you were sufficiently amateurish and it was never really likely that the fire would take hold.”

The judge, noting Birks’ mental health problems and that he did not see “anything to be gained by society” by jailing the defendant immediately, suspended a two-year jail term for two years.

Birks, of Holbrook Road, Belper, admitted arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

He was also handed a 24-month mental health treatment requirement, 30 rehabilitation activity days, 80 hours unpaid work and a restraining order.

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