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Drunken arsonist who torched Cleator Moor house is jailed

Ronnie Wallace

A DRUNKEN arsonist who torched his rented West Cumbria home has been jailed for more than four years.

Ronnie Wallace, 34, piled a wardrobe door and clothing at the foot of the stairs inside the Duke Street mid-terraced property in Cleator Moor before starting a fire on the early evening of June 17 and retreating to an upstairs bedroom.

Neighbours were alerted by an alarm and bravely tried to tackle the blaze but were forced back by the ferocity of it. Wallace, seen at an upstairs window with smoke billowing behind him, was heard to shout that he was “ready to die”, a prosecutor told Carlisle Crown Court.

Wallace then struggled with firefighters for several minutes after they rescued him from the burning property, and also resisted police who had to use an incapacitant spray in response.

Crews had worn breathing apparatus to enter the address before tackling and putting out the blaze.

But in court today (FRI), property owner Joseph Graham Sunderland spoke of the profound emotional effects of a crime which left the house uninhabitable for months. He also described the £5,000-plus cost of putting right the extensive damage caused by Wallace, whose father had since generously helped with repairs.

“This incident has left me completely stressed,” Mr Sunderland told the court. “I have lost all trust in people.”

Wallace admitted an arson charge. He also pleaded guilty to two shop thefts – on May 15 and 16 – and an actual bodily harm assault on a store employee who was struck over the head with a tin by the thief on the latter occasion as he tried to pinch food.

Wallace was jailed for a total of four-and-a-half years by Judge Peter Davies, who said of the fire: “You were being reckless as to whether people’s lives were being endangered in that terrace.”

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