Sunderland arsonist targeted ten cars in Crook and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison

Paul Reay lit a blowtorch-style lighter to ignite the license plates of the cars during his 10-minute bout of fire in Crook, County Durham on Sunday February 12.

He was sentenced today (Friday, May 19) to seven and a half years in prison after admitting at a hearing at Durham Crown Court on March 20 that he had committed ten counts of arson without regard to the danger to life or Property.

The Northern Echo:

As he is believed to pose a significant risk of committing further offenses with possible serious harm to the public, he must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence behind bars and, at the end of his sentence, will be given an additional four-year sentence.

Read more: Police launch arson investigation into car fires in Crook

Reay, who had been using drugs and drinking the night before into the early hours of February 12, could not explain why he committed his arson.

The Northern Echo:

Durham Crown Court heard he had never been to Crook before and harbored no animosity towards any of the townspeople or any of the victims in the case.

When he was arrested on February 17, he initially denied the crimes, telling police he had taken “benzos” and had been drinking for most of the previous day.

But the court heard he left a lawsuit for damage not only to the cars he set on fire, but also to many house facades, windows and doors damaged by the flames of cars parked nearby.

The Northern Echo:

John Hobley, prosecutor, said although all the estimates had not yet been submitted, the damage booked so far had been estimated at £49,606 but was likely to rise as further estimates and claims for damages were completed.

Many of the victims have been left without their own money and, in some cases, without transportation for periods since the night of the incident.

However, the court found that it also caused psychological damage to the victims and their families, and one family had to leave their homes as a result.

Several of the victims, who had been awakened largely by the sound of the burning cars, ran terrified from their properties in Milburn and neighboring Wilson Streets for fear of explosions if the fuel in their vehicles ignited.

Mr Hobley said after monitoring CCTV in the area, Reay was identified and the lighter used to start the fires was found dumped behind a dustbin.

The court was told that the 39-year-old defendant, from Chepstow Street, Millfield, Sunderland, had mainly burglary offences.

READ ALSO: Ten cars destroyed in suspected arson attack on Milburn Street, Crook

As for damage control, Chris Knox said the parole reporter was able to confirm before the verdict that the defendant had no “fixation” with fire or a pattern of previous fire offenses.

“It appears to have been an incident at least triggered by alcohol and/or drugs, to which he is unfortunately susceptible.

“The parole officer who prepared the report described him as a danger from impulsive behavior.

“As an adult, nearly all crimes involved burglary, with little history of violent crime.”

Mr Knox said the accused had tried to curb his alcohol and drug use but “unfortunately backslidden from his previous good intentions” that night.

“He’s made good progress in abstaining from alcohol and drugs but unfortunately tonight it came down to excess of both and the risk is clear.

“He’s never been to Crook before and doesn’t harbor the slightest animosity towards the people who live there or the people whose cars were badly damaged.”

Mr Knox said it would allow victims to “sleep happily in their beds, knowing no one is after them”.

Judge Jo Kidd told Reay: “For reasons which you have not set out and for which there is no obvious objective explanation, you targeted two streets in a Crook residential area.

“There is no indication that you were specifically targeting any individual, but I saw a picture of the lighter used and it is not necessarily a lighter used to light a cigarette.”

The judge said after looking at the available CCTV footage, Reay could be seen hiding behind vehicles and walls, walking from car to car.

“What’s interesting is that you can walk without staggering.”

She said: “So I’m in a position not to understand your train of thought that night.

“At the same time, the number of vehicles attacked indicated that it was a premeditated act.”

Judge Kidd said the danger was apparent due to the proximity of the homes to the cars being attacked.

“Due to the sheer number of vehicles attacked and the increased risk that would be created if each one had exploded with the violence of a few, I believe the starting point here is 10 years.”

However, she deducted 25 percent of the sentence to accommodate the defendant’s confessions at the hearing.

Judge Kidd added that given the reality of Reay’s financial condition and sentence, she will not be issuing an order for damages in this case.

Continue reading:

* Man arrested on suspicion of setting cars on fire in Crook is released on bail

* Car fires in crooked car: Paul Reay appears in court on arson charges

* A Sunderland man admits to ten arson charges over car fires in Crook

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Speaking after today’s hearing, South Durham CID, Detective Sergeant Claire Callaghan said: “This was a deliberate and horrific incident which could easily have resulted in tragedy.”

“Officials have worked tirelessly to gather evidence. So it’s great to see that Reay had no choice but to plead guilty and get justice done for the residents.

“I would like to thank the members of the public who provided important information on this case that ultimately helped us to bring all ten counts of charges.” Sunderland arsonist targeted ten cars in Crook and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison

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