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BED FIRE WOMAN FACING JAIL TERM; Girlfriend could be locked up indefinitely.

Byline: GARETH LIGHTFOOT ;KAREN FAUGHEY

A WOMAN who inexplicably set fire to the pillow beneath her sleeping partner's head could be jailed indefinitely.

Karen Woodall, 40, set alight the bedding inches away from soundly sleeping David Hall's head, then rang police and confessed to her bizarre crime, Teesside Crown Court heard.

She told the operator: "I've tried to burn the place down.

"My head's went on one. I could have killed him there."

Fortunately Mr Hall quickly awoke, escaped uninjured and the fire was extinguished at the one-bedroom flat they shared on Station Road, Redcar.

Woodall sobbed as a jury convicted her of arson with intent to endanger life this week.

She denied that charge, insisting she loved Mr Hall and would never try to hurt him or put his life at risk. She said the couple were still together and she admitted a lesser charge of arson being reckless.

After their unanimous guilty verdict, jurors were told by Judge Peter Fox QC that Woodall had been convicted of a previous offence of arson in 2007. She was given a suspended prison sentence, which she breached by committing the most recent arson offence.

The judge said: "My great concern is to protect any other person from the danger that she may pose. I couldn't at this stage exclude an indefinite sentence.

"I've no doubt that she would not act in this way when sober, but she seems to have a propensity to pose this real hazard to life."

The court heard the phone call Woodall made to police, asking for her probation officer, at about 5.40pm on May 31.

She said: "My boyfriend was in bed. I've tried to burn the place down. I set fire to the pillow.

"He's jumping around the kitchen now."

When asked why she did it, she told the operator: "'Cos I wanted to... 'Cos I'm daft."

When Mr Hall was put on the line, he said: "I've woke up. She's wrecked the flat. She's thrown eggs at me. She's wrecked the kitchen."

When PC Darren Lee arrived, he heard screaming. Woodall verbally abused him and threw a plate at him.

At interview, Woodall said she couldn't remember setting the fire or calling the police.

Giving evidence, Woodall admitted she must have set the fire though she couldn't remember how and didn't know what she was trying to do.

She said she drank pints and cans of lager that day before trying to wake up Mr Hall.

She said she shook him, messed about and jumped on the bed but he wouldn't respond. Then she put their Sunday dinner on plates and went back to the bedroom.

She told the court: "The bed was on fire. I got him out of bed then I ran back into the kitchen. There was a pan of carrots in water. I ran back in and I put the fire out.

"I was shocked. I was upset. I was frightened. That fire, it could've hurt David, it could've hurt me, it could've hurt anyone.

"I had no reason to start the fire. I didn't do it deliberately. I would never hurt that lad, never.

"I'd never hurt David. I love that man to bits. I was drunk. To me it was a drunken mistake.

"I don't know whether I had a fag in my hand and the end's dropped off."

She denied they had relationship problems: "Things were going absolutely brilliant."

Prosecutor Paul Cleasby suggested Woodall lost her temper because her sleeping partner missed the Sunday dinner she had spent time preparing. She denied this.

He said there could be no other intention than to endanger life, adding: "What else can anybody intend by behaving in such a way?" Judge Fox, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report, and remanded Woodall in custody until December 18.
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Nov 26, 2009
Words:642
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