Mum woke to see flames tearing through family of six’s home
A family of six were left with just the clothes they were standing in after a vindictive arsonist set a caravan alight, which rapidly spread to their two mobile homes. The mother woke in terror at 3.30am to see flames flickering outside her window – and rushed to save her 11-year-old daughter sleeping in an adjacent caravan. Her partner, on hearing her frantic screams, guided their three other children, aged two, six and nine to safety before all three caravans were rapidly engulfed in flames, along with a lorry and three fairground rides, resulting in GBP156,000 of damage, Leicester Crown Court was told.
– Laser shone at plane landing at East Midlands Airport Revengeful Lord Curtis Lodge, 33, started the blaze in his ex-girlfriend’s unoccupied caravan, following a row, and was fully aware her brother’s family were sleeping a few metres away, on a plot at Wymeswold Road, Hoton, near Loughborough, on Sunday November 29. Lodge, of Golfview Rise, Moorbarns Lane, Lutterworth, had earlier messaged his on-off girlfriend, who was staying elsewhere with friends, threatening to “burn your place down” and violently harm her family.
She replied, saying he was “sick” and “there’s kids in there.” Lodge responded: “So take that as you want ok.” Joey Kwong, prosecuting, said the defendant then carried out the threat in a “planned and calculated way” because he was “jealous and angry” about her staying with a female friend – who was married to one of his friends – in Essex.
The prosecutor read a statement from the mother-of-four, who awoke to see flames coming from next door. She stated: “I saw light flickering from the bedroom window. “I had not put up my black-out blind, or I might not have woken up.
Emergency services put out the fires
“I leapt out of bed in terror and panic because my 11-year-old daughter was in a neighbouring caravan and I saw the other caravan (belonging to her sister-in-law) had flames roaring through the roof.”
She said she quickly “grabbed” her daughter from the adjacent caravan, amidst “roaring, crackling and banging.” In another statement read out, the children’s father said he heard his partner’s terrified screams and could see his sister’s caravan was ablaze. He pulled a window open to check his sister (the defendant’s estranged girlfriend) was not inside.
He said the fire “spread so quickly” to their own home. PC Stuart Davis said, in a statement read out, that two caravans were “reduced to the metal chassis” and “all the contents inside were destroyed.” As well as destroying two caravans and the static home, with fixtures and fittings, damage was caused to a lorry, a waltzer ride, a chair-o-plane ride , a train ride, a fork-lift truck, fencing, a garage and various possessions including children’s toys, totalling GBP156,000.
The defendant’s ex-girlfriend said all she was left with was “a pair of pyjamas and some slippers.” Another relative, who lived nearby and heard the screams, had called the fire service which attended with several pumps. During his summing of evidence to the jury, the Recorder Balraj Bhatia QC said: “There’s no suggestion any accelerant was used, it was a naked flame onto clothing in a cupboard.”
Lodge admitted starting the fire and recklessly endangering life – but was on trial because he denied a more serious allegation of arson, intentionally endangering life. When interviewed by the police he said: “I didn’t mean it to go that far.” He said he consumed “a couple of beers” but was not drunk and drove to his girlfriend’s unlocked caravan, checked she was not inside and used a cigarette lighter to start the fire in a cupboard, where he knew there was a faulty fuse box.
On being shown photographs of the damage, he said: “I feel sick, seeing the kids’ bedrooms.” After setting the fire he left, assuming it would fizzle out. Giving evidence in his defence, Lodge said he had not meant anything by earlier text message threats to his former “casual” girlfriend, with whom he had an on-off relationship since last July.
He told the jury his messages “were just words.” Despite being told she was in Essex, he said he went to the caravan in Hoton to see if she was there, adding: “I was not thinking about burning her place, but when I went there it was empty … I wasn’t really thinking.”
Under cross-examination by Mr Kwong, Lodge said: “I didn’t realise it would go up as quickly as that.” He accepted he was feeling “jealous” and wanted to “humiliate” her, saying “she was winding me up,” by being in Essex with people he was also friends with. Lodge refused to continue answering further prosecution questions.
He later objected to the recorder’s summing up – and left the dock to sit in the cells below the court as the trial continued in his absence.
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After the guilty verdict was announced, Mr Kwong revealed that the defendant had a 2017 previous conviction for arson and the following year was prosecuted for having a shotgun in a public place. As the jury filed past him to leave court at the end, Lodge began angrily waving his arms around and hurled verbal abuse. He then turned his ire on the recorder with a stream of vitriolic insults – which placed him in contempt of court.
Recorder Bhatia adjourned sentencing for eight weeks, pending the preparation of pre-sentence and psychiatric reports.
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