Harpenden arsonist who threw furniture from flat is jailed

PUBLISHED: 18:42 15 July 2011

Justice

Justice

Archant

AN ARSONIST who barricaded himself into a burning flat and threatened to stab police has been jailed for four years.

Leon Ellwood was dragged from the smoke-filled building after two police officers braved the flames and acrid fumes to restrain the out-of-control 33 year old.

Judge Marie Catterson imprisoned Ellwood at St Albans Crown Court on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to arson being reckless to whether he endangered life, affray, two counts of criminal damage to a police car and another count of setting fire to the flat window.

Police were called by neighbours after Ellwood began throwing furniture from the upstairs flat in Leaside Court, Lower Luton Road, Harpenden on January 11.

Ellwood had started drinking earlier that day, mixing alcohol with medication for depression, after receiving notice to vacate the rented accommodation.

David Chrimes, prosecuting, said police found Ellwood throwing his own furniture from the second floor window at around 7pm. He continued “lobbing” items from the window including an armchair, sofa and cabinet and smaller electrical goods such as a toaster.

Mr Chrimes said, “anything he could get his hands on,” was thrown, causing damage to a windscreen and number plate of two police cars.

Officers tried to reason with Ellwood, who continued to make threats to stab anyone who entered the flat and waved a knife at them through the letter box, having barricaded himself in.

Things then took a more serious turn when Ellwood set fire to a table in the flat which set the curtains alight.

Police evacuated residents of the other 11 flats telling one to get out and that there was no time to even put on their shoes.

Two officers, PC Carlton Ellwood and Sgt John Middleton, who were praised for their bravery, broke down the door and handcuffed the struggling man with use of a riot shield and taser.

Jas Kalirai, defending, pointed out Ellwood had remained out of trouble for 10 years until 2009 when he began drinking again, which exacerbated mental health problems he had been battling for years.

Mr Kalirai asked the court to impose a suspended prison sentence but Judge Catterson said only an immediate custodial sentence of four years, with an extended period on licence after release of five years, would protect the public.

She commended all the officers, adding: “I want to thank on behalf of the public two [PC Carlton and Sgt Middleton] for the real personal courage they showed, fighting their way through the barricade where that flat was on fire and being verbally threatened by a man that seemed to be armed with knives.

“They behaved with rare courage and it seems to me the police force and public in Hertfordshire have cause to be very proud of them.”


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