Fatal Fire "Accidental"
Woman Jailed After Boat Fire
A woman who set fire to her ex-lover's narrow boat as he slept inside was jailed for 9 years today (Thursday April 28th).
Kathleen Smith was angry that Jeremy Brewer had finished with her when she went to his boat late at night with a can of petrol.
At her trial at St Albans crown court Mr Brewer said he woke to find himself unable to get past the flames and was trapped inside the boat as the fire took hold.
He said he made a 999 call and firemen arrived on the tow path beside the vessel on the Grand Union Canal at Boxmoor in Hemel Hempstead, Herts to put out the blaze.
Mr Brewer said that when he first saw the flames upon waking, he remembered Smith's words to him weeks earlier, when she had attacked him with a steam iron and told him "I will burn your boat!"
He said "I thought she's actually gone and done it."
Smith, 34, of Beechfield Road, Hemel Hempstead had pleaded not guilty to arson with intent to endanger Mr Brewer's life in January of 2010 and assaulting him occasioning actual bodily harm a few weeks earlier in November 2009.
Judge John Plumstead, who had adjourned her sentence to today for reports, passed an extended sentence of 5 years on top of the 9 years. This means Smith can be recalled to prison after her release any time in the next fourteen years.
Laura Blackband, prosecuting, said at the time she dowsed the front of the boat in petrol and started the fire in the early hours of January 6 last year, "she knew full well" that Mr Brewer was asleep on the boat.
The jury then heard how Smith had been in a relationship with Mr Brewer for some four years before it finished in the summer of 2009.
Mr Brewer said he had tried to finish things between them several times but after it finally ended in July 2009 he tried to stay friends with her and they remained in contact.
In November of that year he said he received a phone call from her asking him to visit her home.
"She said she wanted to talk and I said I would come round for a chat."
But he said in the house she began "ranting and raving" telling him "I loved you, how could you do this to me...no one does this to me."
He said she then smashed a steam iron over his head and he had to be taken to hospital by ambulance where he received 18 stitches.
The jury heard that as a result Smith was arrested and charged with assaulting her ex.
She was granted bail with conditions that she should not visit Mr Brewer and have no contact with him
But said Miss Blackband, in the early hours of January 6 2010 she did go to the boat and she had with her three pounds worth of petrol in a can which she had bought from a garage near to the canal.
Mr Brewer told the jury of the three entry/exit points on the boat, only one was available to him that night at the front of the boat.
The jury were told Miss Smith would have known this at the time.
Mr Brewer told the court he had gone to bed and was woken by a "loud thump on the front deck."
Through glass panels in the door he said he could see flames coming from the front deck.
He said as he got up he remembered her saying during the iron attack that she would burn his boat.
He said there was no way he could escape from the boat and he described the fire that was taking hold as a "roaring inferno."
Mr Brewer said firemen arrived within eight minutes of his 999 call and put out the flames.
The court heard the melted remains of the plastic petrol can were found by firemen and there was a strong smell of petrol present.
At the end of the prosecution's case, Miss Smith elected not to give evidence.
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