Sheffield woman with 'fascination for fire and blades' avoids jail after admitting to starting bus station blaze

Sykes started a fire at Sheffield Interchange on September 23 last year
Sykes started a fire at Sheffield Interchange on September 23 last year
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A Sheffield woman with a 'fascination for fire and blades' has been given a suspended prison sentence for carrying a knife and starting a blaze at the city's main transport interchange.

During a hearing at Sheffield Crown Court today, Recorder Nicholas Lumley QC sentenced Chantelle Sykes, 23, to 12-months in prison, suspended for 12-months, after she admitted to one count of arson and to another of possessing a bladed article in public.

Louise Gallagher, prosecuting, told the court how the first incident took place at Sheffield Interchange in the city centre at around 10pm on September 23.

"The defendant had been seen to set a fire with a piece of paper. She had wedged it into the turnstiles," said Ms Gallagher, adding: "it seems to have caused scorch marks, but there was no lasting damage."

Then, at around 1.15am on September 30, Sykes was seen breaking-in to the Interchange by staff, who called the police.

Ms Gallagher said: "Staff reported that she had forced entry to the main building that was closed, and they believed her to be in possession of a knife.

"When police searched her, she said: 'You may as well have this,' and produced a lock knife.

"When she was being searched razor blades wrapped in tissue were found in her bra. Under police interview she said she needed the razor blades to self-harm."

The court was told that Sykes, of Pollard Crescent, Parson Cross has already been convicted of one offence of arson, and of a further 18 offences relating to possession of a bladed article.

Defending, Michael Cane-Soothill, told the court that while the fire started by Sykes, who suffers from a borderline personality disorder, was serious it had 'gone out of its own accord'.

He said: "While she concedes she likes looking at smoke and flames, she is not interested in causing damage to property or people."

In a psychiatric report prepared for the court, the possibility of Sykes suffering from 'pyromania' had been ruled out, added Mr Cane-Soothill.

Pyromania is an impulse control disorder in which individuals repeatedly fail to resist impulses to deliberately start fires, in order to relieve tension or for instant gratification.

Passing sentence, Recorder Lumley QC, told Sykes: "Setting fires to public places, to which the public have access, is obviously a dangerous and reckless thing to do."

He added: "You have a fascination with fires and blades. You are impulsive, but I do not think you are driven to cause damage to property or people. It seems you are only driven to harm yourself."