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ARSONIST,16 GETS LIFE FOR SETTING OFF 140 BLAZES.

A Schoolboy arsonist who started more than 140 blazes was locked up for life yesterday.

Darren Marklew, 16, was caged after doctors at top-security Rampton Hospital refused to admit him because he was "too young and immature".

Sentencing the teenager at Nottingham Crown Court, Judge John Hopkin said he was "extremely dangerous" and should not be freed for at least eight years. Marklew lit a series of fires on his way to school.

His parents only began to suspect his bizarre obsession when the headteacher phoned to ask why his clothes always smelled of smoke.

Marklew burned down an Army cadet hut after a row over a uniform, then calmly watched while the fire brigade arrived.

When he was sent to a children's hostel, he started a fire - then turned on the gas in the building while waiting for the fire crews.

Marklew, from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Notts, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to setting fire to the Army hut, causing pounds 300 worth of damage.

He also admitted arson with reckless disregard for life by setting fire to a house and asked for 139 other arson offences to be considered, mainly of starting grass fires and burning down farm buildings.

Marklew's mum Elaine, 48, and stepfather John, 55, spoke after the case about the young menace.

Mrs Marklew said: "We just didn't know this was going on. It was never as if we caught him playing with fire or matches, but his headteacher rang up one day and asked why Darren kept smelling of smoke all the time. You couldn't smell it on him at home and when you asked him about it he just kept denying it.

"He told the psychologists he had been smoking drugs and sniffing aerosols, but we didn't really know about it and he always denied it."

The couple have three other children. Mrs Marklew said Darren's natural father left when he was six.

The teenager went on his two-year arson spree after the dad spurned an attempted reconciliation.

Caterer MrMarklew said: "He needs proper medical help which he hasn't had so far."

Marklew will be assessed by doctors.

A report about his future treatment will be sent to the Home Office.

Police said he could have ended up killing someone if he hadn't been caught.

Detective Sergeant Dave Padley said: "He was a danger to himself and the community.

"He does seem to have an over- riding interest in fires.

"We were obviously concerned about his behaviour. He has a problem but hopefully that can be resolved by the professional people who will now deal with him."
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Author:Fellstrom, Carl
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 12, 1997
Words:434
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