Arsonist jailed after setting fire to motorbike next to block of flats

fire

The fire was started at St Peter's Court in Lowestoft. - Credit: Jasper King

A 25-year-old man who started a fire in a bike shed under a 15 storey block of flats in Lowestoft during a row with a former friend over a woman has been jailed for 44 months.

Lee Lawrence set fire to petrol in a Suzuki motorcycle in the bike shed under St Peter’s Court in Chapel Street and the resulting fire destroyed the motorbike and caused more than £18,000 damage, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Between 20 and 30 families were evacuated from the 80 flats in the block and had to be placed in emergency accommodation by East Suffolk Council.

After starting the fire Lawrence had sent his former friend a text saying: “Good luck riding your motorbike”, the court heard.

Stephen Rose, prosecuting, described the fire as a “revenge attack” motivated by Lawrence having a grudge against his former friend because he thought he’d told his ex girlfriend he’d cheated on her.

Lawrence, of Jacobs Street, was due to have been sentenced on Friday, February 11, but Judge Martyn Levett adjourned the case until Monday, February 14, saying he would have to decide whether or not he should sentence Lawrence as a dangerous offender. 

Lawrence admitted arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered following the fire in August last year.

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The court heard that seven fire crews extinguished the blaze, which caused £18,000 damage to the ground floor of the building, communal landing area and electrics.

Residents of the flats were forced to leave the building as crews battled the blaze at 9.45pm but were eventually allowed to return to their homes at about 1am.

The court heard that Lawrence has 21 previous convictions but none for arson.

In mitigation, Richard Sutton QC said Lawrence had accepted responsibility for what he’d done.