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Woman smoked a cigarette while flat went up in flames as ‘voices told her to’

A woman set fire to her curtains, paper and a unicorn soft toy then sat in a chair smoking a cigarette as they all went up in flames because the 'voices' in her head told her to.

Nadine Winstanley refused to leave her Hull flat after she started a fire that put the lives of others in the block in danger HullLive reports.

Instead, the 51-year-old simply sat in a chair and smoked as the flames grew larger.

Firefighters had to eventually enter the property while she was still there to put out the fire.

After leaving the flat, Winstanley admitted to starting the fire because the voices in her head told her to do it, Hull Crown Court heard.

On January 7 earlier this year, two days into a national lockdown, a woman was walking past the block of flats in Wimborne Close, off Dorchester Road, when she heard the sound of a fire alarm.

Moving further towards the building to check out the noise she spotted a glow coming from the window of one of the flats.

“She was aware that the flats were occupied,” said prosecuting barrister Michelle Stuart-Lofthouse. “She tried her best to alert those inside telling them to get out. One of them was this defendant.”

However, when the woman tried to convince Winstanley to leave her flat she said: “I’m not coming out”.

When firefighters arrived at the scene she ignored their warnings and was “simply sat in a chair smoking a cigarette”.

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Fire crews managed to gain access to the building by smashing a window with a hammer and Winstanley left the property.

When she was asked how the fire started she confessed “I set it alight” using a lighter and she was arrested.

When she was interviewed by officers Winstanley told them she started the fire by setting her curtains alight, as well as paper and a unicorn soft toy.

Ms Stuart-Lofthouse said: “When she was asked why she said the voices in her head told her to do it.”

Winstanley appeared at Hull Crown Court on Friday (May 28) to be sentenced for arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

At the time of the fire Winstanley had been taken prescribed anti-psychotic medication as well as medication from what she called the black market.

The court heard that the impact of multiple lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic was a detrimental factor to Winstanley’s poor mental health.

“This offence was committed two days after this year’s national lockdown was announced and that had an effect on her mental health,” said mitigating barrister Helen Chapman.

“She was having a difficult time and she was hearing voices. An outreach worker had been trying to get support for the defendant but because of lockdown there was none available.”

It was heard that Winstanley has had complex mental health problems since her childhood and a pre-sentence report concluded she was a high risk of causing serious harm to others.

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When Winstanley heard this she sounded shocked as she said “wow” while standing in the dock.

Judge Mark Bury said: “You are not safe to be released. Your risk is unmanageable and by that I mean there is a high likelihood of you committing offences.

“Although the damage done was modest the fact is that this could have been a whole lot worse. There was a risk of the people in the block of flats being seriously injured or killed.

“Accordingly, in my view, there is no alternative but to impose a sentence of immediate custody.”

Winstanley was sentenced to 32 months in prison.

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