An arsonist has been handed a life sentence after starting a fire that went on to kill a man who was trapped inside his room.
Northumbria Police says for nearly two years, Declan Lancaster kept secret that he started the fire at the Manor House premises in Easington Lane that resulted in the death of Patryk Mortimer.
Patryk, 39, was found unconscious in the early hours of November 3 2018, after flames had engulfed the High Street premises.
Lancaster had been socialising inside the address with friends before he decided to start a fire in a small cupboard in the hallway. All other residents were able to escape but sadly Patryk was later found deceased outside his room.
The fire sparked a two-year investigation as detectives trawled through more than 600 hours of CCTV footage, took hundreds of statements and interviewed various suspects in a bid to determine who lit the flame.
Declan was initially arrested on suspicion of murder shortly after the fatal fire in November 2018.Bodycam footage shows officers having to restrain the now 24-year-old after he shouts "Do you think I'd murder my best pal?".
It wasn't until August 2020, while on remand for an unrelated offence, that Lancaster confessed to prison staff and later police that he killed Patryk and couldn’t live with it on his conscience any longer.
The 24-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court in March this year.
Today (2 July) he returned to the same court where a judge sentenced him to a life sentence, serving a minimum of five years before he can even be considered for release.
"A danger to society"
Detective Sergeant Steven Brown of Northumbria Police says, “No sentence today can take away the pain and anguish that Patryk’s family have suffered over the last two-and-a-half years.
“My thoughts remain with them at this devastating time and I sincerely hope that today’s outcome can offer them some degree of comfort, knowing that Patryk’s killer has been brought to justice.
“Declan Lancaster’s actions were both dangerous and reckless. He cruelly took away Patryk’s future – and so easily could have led to the deaths of many others inside the Manor House that night.
"As Patryk’s family and friends desperately sought answers, for nearly two years Lancaster concealed his dark secret and deprived them of any kind of closure.
“I welcome today’s sentence and would like to thank everybody who played their part in helping to ensure Lancaster was brought before the court to answer his crimes – from the community who assisted us at every step through to all the officers who played their part in this investigation.
“Today, it is clear that all your hard work has been worth it in securing justice for Patryk’s family.”
Lancaster, of no fixed abode, now begins a custodial term.