Richard Rowe, 31, an agricultural salesman of Blackgate Lane, Pulborough, has pleaded guilty to setting fire to his ex-girlfriend’s house, in which she and his four-month-old baby were sleeping. He was on bail with the conditions that he stay away from his prior victim and her home in College Road, Southwater, after he was arrested on suspicion of assault a few days earlier.
Just after 2.30pm on Saturday 8th July 2017, Rowe entered her property and set alight to the front door and a dog kennel close to the rear kitchen window. The second fire was directly underneath the bedroom window where one of the victim’s young children (a four-year-old) was sleeping.
While the victim waited for the neighbours to get help, she sheltered her four-month-old baby from the billowing smoke by holding them out of a first floor window. A neighbour then climbed a ladder to rescue the youngster.
The dog attached to the burning kennel escaped with its life, but was treated for burns after the incident.
On the same day the fire took place, Rowe was arrested by police at a property in Sullington. Police tracked his car using automatic number plate recognition that showed he had been at Pease Pottage services around 2am, where he had purchased a can of petrol.
On Wednesday March 7th Rowe appeared by video-link from HMP Lewes at Hove Crown Court for sentencing. He had pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life at an earlier hearing. HH Judge David Rennie sentenced him to six-and-a-half years, including three years on licence upon his release.
The judge said: “You set two seats of fire in a cold and calculated manner. It beggars belief that you did that knowing that there were two children in the house.
“Lives may not have been lost – but lives have been ruined. The victims will never be able to understand why you did what you did that night.”
Detective Constable Rees Hopcraft said: “Rowe initially tried to mislead us to his whereabouts that night, but we were quickly able to establish just where he had been and when. There can be no doubt that his actions were beyond simple arson and were aimed at deliberately targeting the lives of those inside the house.”