Prison for love row man who set fire to house

A MAN who tried to set fire to his former partner’s council house, and made preparations to hang himself as the blaze took hold, has been jailed.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that Philip Ricketts, 27, had been in an on-off relationship with Catrina Hall, mother to their seven-year-old daughter.

He had begun living with her again last October and had bought an engagement ring but they still rowed, Louise Gallagher, prosecuting, told a judge.

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The couple each went out drinking separately with friends last New Year’s Eve after arguing and Miss Hall sent Ricketts a text saying they were finished because of his behaviour.

Just after midnight, Ricketts rang her to apologise for what he had done and told her to ring the police.

She got into a taxi and returned to her two-bedroom end terrace council home in Rotherham to find it had been set on fire.

Ricketts had called the police and said he had set fire to the house but had second thoughts and put the flames out with water.

He was found in the kitchen with his hands and clothes covered in soot.

The loft hatch had been opened and a rope with a noose on the end had been fashioned and a chair placed underneath it.

Ricketts told police he had been preparing to commit suicide and left a note for his ex-partner which read: “I’m sorry, you don’t deserve this. I’m sorry, goodbye, I love you.”

The court heard Miss Hall was “hysterical” when she got home. She had recently cancelled the house insurance because money was tight and smoke damage was estimated at £5,755.

Dermot Hughes, defending, said Ricketts was not normally a violent man and “something must have seriously gone wrong in his life” for him to want to end it all.

Mr Hughes said Miss Hall was currently in prison having been involved in cannabis production and supplying recreational drugs.

“This did not meet with the approval of the defendant and he did not approve of her friends at all,” said Mr Hughes.

“He worked as hard as he could to service various debts which had accumulated and it was all far too much for him.”

Having set the fire he put it out within minutes. “It was an isolated incident borne out of desperation,” said Mr Hughes.

Judge Simon Lawler jailed Ricketts for two years. He said: “It is clear that you have seriously considered suicide.”

He said the couple’s 65-year-old neighbour fortunately was “blissfully unaware” of the fire next door.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said the judge.