THIS is the serial arsonist who has been put behind bars for attempting to start fires in her home – in a bid to get the council to move her.
Kelly Ritchie made repeated calls to the police reporting someone was targeting her at her tower block flat. But in fact the 25-year-old was setting the fires herself so she could get herself to a new council home.
Southampton Crown Court heard how Ritchie told police that she returned home to her flat in Copenhagen Towers in Weston, one night to find an envelope which had been set alight as well as two cigarette butts.
Police took them away for examination and from DNA found on them, they arrested her neighbour who was detained overnight in the cells before being released without charge.
Two weeks later, Ritchie called police again to say lit paper had been put through her door when she was having a shower.
Following that incident, Southampton City Council installed a covert camera without Ritchie knowing. When she again claimed smouldering paper had been pushed through her letterbox, the footage was examined by police.
Prosecutor Tom Wright told how when police examined the footage, they realised no one had been in the area at the time of the supposed arson attack and suspicion immediately fell on her.
She was arrested but refused to answer questions.
In court, Ritchie pleaded guilty to arson and attempting to pervert the course of justice and was jailed for 15 months.
In mitigation, Richard Martin said Ritchie had acted wholly out of character.
At the time she had been suffering from the death of her father and undiagnosed low level mental health issues. She was now being treated for depression.
She had been the victim of anti-social behaviour and wasn’t thinking rationally as things got on top of her. These were very small fires and what she did was appalling. It wasn’t a personal vendetta. It had all the hallmarks of a cry for help.”