‘Catch me if you can’ arsonist threatened to kill if crime spree was not publicised

A SERIAL arsonist who set fire to properties in the Leeds area and left notes threatening to kill children has been jailed for life.

Gary Welsh, 28, wrote chilling messages to fire brigade chiefs describing himself as a member of the Anti-Conservative Crew and signed off one with the message: “Catch me if you can.”

Welsh, who has previous 
convictions for arson, also demanded that his offences be 
publicised and threatened to commit murder if his requests were not carried out, the court heard.

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During a 10-day crime spree Welsh started fires outside homes on four occasions in Bramley, as well as setting fire to a former pub.

Leeds Crown Court heard firefighters spent five hours tackling the blaze at the Lord Cardigan, on Hough Lane, on January 28 this year.

Richard Smith, prosecuting, told the court that nearby houses and a nursing home had to be evacuated and two elderly residents 
had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Welsh then set fire to two settees outside a house on Aston Road on February 3 before igniting rubbish bins outside a house on Snowden Vale on February 5.

He left a note, which began “Dear fire chief”, threatening to start more fires and claiming to have become an expert at committing arson.

He described himself as a member of the Anti-Conservative Crew and finished the note: “Catch me if you can.”

Firefighters were called to a house on Musgrave View on February 6 after a fire had been started as the family who lived there were in bed asleep.

Another note was found which read: “Firemen, without prejudice, this is the ACC.

“Do not underestimate the gravity of coming events.

“You better have this in Tuesday’s Evening Post or I will kill someone.

“Just put ‘arsonist on loose leaving notes’.

“Do not put this handwriting in the paper or a nice family unit will be burnt to a crisp.

“We are professional psychopaths, pyromaniacs with no remorse.

“We will kill kids as well by blocking front and back doors with bins and put petrol through the letter box.

“Trust me I have previous modus operandi for it. It better be in the paper on Tuesday or you will have a murder inquiry on your hands.

“Kind Regards, Percy and Patchy.”

The letter continued: “You are not just dealing with idle threats.

“Try me. Tuesday, page five or murder inquiry, up to you.

“You will see how dangerous we are if it is not in the paper.

“Just like Lord Cardigan and Kirkstall lights and all bins and sheds.”

The note was passed to police who arrested Welsh.

Officers investigating the 
case would also find a notebook with handwriting which was the 
same as the notes left at the 
scene.

Welsh, of Ashton Street, Bramley, pleaded guilty to charges of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and one of arson.

The court heard Welsh has offences for arson dating back to when he was a juvenile.

These included serving a fouryear sentence for setting fire to a pub in Bradford.

Stephen Wood, for Welsh, said it was hard to argue against any other than his client being a dangerous offender.

Judge James Spencer QC ordered that Welsh must serve a minimum of six years in prison before he can apply for parole. However he added that he must remain on licence for the rest of his life.

In his summing up, he said: “You are a dangerous man because you understand the danger of your actions.

“It seems to me that until 
you realise the error of your ways you will continue to be a 
danger.”