9:56am Friday 30th May 2014
A WOMAN's life was 'wrecked' when a deluded man twice started fires at her stables in Cam because he believed the buildings were "a portal to demons" a court heard.
After a mental breakdown caused by several bereavements and the use of hard drugs, Mark Smith, 25, set fire to 120 bales of hay at Joanne Jones' stables in Field Lane, Cam on January 28 last year.
The blaze caused £13,920 worth of damage, Gloucester Crown Court was told.
Then on June 17 last year Smith returned to the same yard and set fire to a horsebox, causing another £11,700 worth of damage.
Prosecutor Janine Wood said Smith rang the fire brigade himself, giving his true name, to report the fire and even spoke to the owners at the scene.
On October 21 he returned again and this time wrote graffiti across the 12-foot wide gates saying "'move on or you will burn."
Later on Smith broke into Cam Woodfields School and caused £120 in damage.
Smith, of no fixed address, admitted setting fire to 120 bales of hay, a wooden hay shelter and two horse trailers belonging to Mrs Jones at Field Lane, Cam on January 28.
He also admitted arson on June 17, criminally damaging the wicker gate owned by Ms Jones between 19-22 October last year and breaking into the school on October 30.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC jailed him for a total of four years.
"Mrs Jones thought someone was targeting her and was full of hate and vengeance against her because she saw what she loved most in her life, which was her stables and horses and trailers go up in smoke in a terrible fire," he said.
"She describes it in great length and rather movingly in a victim impact statement.
"All that she had worked for and loved, which was event riding and horses, fell apart around her.
"The fact is that you caused this lady enormous distress. That was not helped by writing those hurtful words in graffiti at her address."
The judge added the offences were an example of what happens when a young man turns to drugs as a way of countering problems.
Mrs Wood told the court that after the first fire Mrs Jones invested heavily in security equipment and lighting but it did not stop Smith going back.
"Due to the two incidents she was petrified she was being targeted," said Mrs Wood.
The prosecutor added insurers paid for the damage - but then would not renew her policy.
Wood gave himself up to police on Nov ember 3 and confessed to all the offences.
Andrew Parker, defending, said a number of bereavements had caused Smith to abuse heroin and cannabis heavily and he had become delusional.
"He believed that this particular stable block was a portal to demons which is why he set it on fire on two occasions," Mr Parker said.
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