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Human fireball arsonist jailed for Totton flat blaze
A MAN turned himself into a human fireball by dousing himself in petrol and setting it alight, a court was told.
Lee Cooper was left with horrific burns as a result of the dramatic suicide bid that threatened to destroy the entire block of flats where he was living at the time.
More than 30 firefighters were deployed to the housing association building in Totton after Cooper started the fire by igniting himself and furniture in the one bedroom flat he rented.
Alarm The 45-year-old later told police: “Once I lit the match I knew there was no going back.”
Cooper explained how he was still on fire as he attempted to raise the alarm with neighbours and tell them to get out as the fire engulfed his top floor flat.
A fire investigator’s report described how the fire had spread to the hallway and was threatening to spread to the roof space. Windows had been blown out due to the intensity of the blaze.
As reported at the time by the Daily Echo neighbours told of how they were forced to flee barefoot from the building in Mansergh Walk on the morning of January 9.
Caroline O’Shea, who fled with a neighbour’s son, described seeing Cooper in just his underpants that were also burnt. “He was very red and his hair was singed,” she said.
Cooper appeared at Winchester Crown Court to be sentenced after pleading guilty to causing arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
It was the third time Cooper had tried to take his own life. The court heard how he had decided to kill himself after splitting with his long-term partner. As a result he was left with 25 per cent burns to his body and spent six weeks in a specialist burns unit at Odstock hospital where he underwent a number of skin grafts.
In mitigation Wayne Cleaver said Cooper had never intended to endanger the lives of other people.
In concluding Cooper posed a danger to the public, Judge Guy Boney QC jailed him for four years and ordered he have an extended licence period of three years.