Redcar couple who started fire told it's 'a miracle' building didn't explode

Abbie Jackson and Thomas Marshall used matches to set a mattress on fire which could have caused a gas explosion. Credit: TeessideLive / Evening Gazette / Cleveland Police

A couple who caused a fire which could have caused a gas explosion have been jailed for arson.

Abbie Jackson and Thomas Marshall shouted "I love you" to one another as they were jailed for seven years between them.

The pair used matches to set a mattress on fire, which had been propped up to an entry gate near a letting agency.

Teesside Crown Court heard the fire quickly spread to the building, which caused significant damage when it started to burn through the gas meter on Queen Street, Redcar.

Families and vulnerable people, including three young children, had to be evacuated from the flats nearby, as well as punters in neighbouring O'Gradys pub.

Engineers said it was a "miracle" the whole Redcar building did not explode.

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said: "The storage area had been completely burnt out. The gas meter had melted and the engineer told the landlord it was a miracle hadn't destroyed the whole building."

The damage caused by the pair cost over £5,000 to repair. Landlord Terry Owens, who owns eight of the evacuated properties above the letting agency, said: "On the night of the fire when I arrived, I feared the worst.

"I was glad to see my residents, who are also friends, and just relieved they were okay. When I saw the damage in the daylight I was absolutely gutted."

Mr Owens, who has been a landlord for 55 years, added: "I was very angry that someone intentionally cause the damage, knowing there was people living in that building. I fear had the gas gone up it would have taken both buildings with it.

"People could have been killed."

Both Jackson and Marshall, of Harwal Road in Redcar, pleaded guilty to charges of arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

Jackson, who appeared in court via a video link from HMP Low Newton, was jailed for three years and nine months.

Marshall, who appeared from HMP Hull and has a previous caution for arson, was jailed for four years and six months.

Michele Turner, mitigating for Jackson, said the defendant has been addicted to heroin following a tragic bereavement in 2016.

She said: "All she wanted to do is make the the world disappear and the hurt all disappear with it."She said the progress Jackson has made in prison is "spectacular" and she has dropped the use of replacement methadone dramatically.

Recorder Rose said: "It is right to say that had the fire burnt through the whole of the gas metre causing a gas leak, there would have been a significant explosion and significant harm to life."

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