A killer who sparked a deadly fire at his hostel after he wrongly concluded a man who lived there had a sex offense conviction in his past, has been jailed for life.
By Karon Kelly
Friday, 2nd July 2021, 2:49 pm
Declan Lancaster, who had taken a cocktail of drink and drugs, started a blaze in a linen cupboard at Manor House in Sunderland on November 3, 2018, because he wanted to “scare and frighten” another tenant.
Newcastle Crown Court heard as the flames took hold, Patryk Mortimer, a resident who was not the 24-year-old’s intended target, tried to get out but died just before he reached the fire escape.
The 39-year-old victim, who was from Poland, was described by his grieving mum as a very intelligent man who could speak six or seven languages and had travelled the world until drink and drugs put him on a downward spiral.
Prosecutor David Brooke QC told the court: “A post mortem confirmed he had died as a result of the affects of the fire, most likely the affects of smoke inhalation and he also had a laceration to his forehead.
“In the opinion of the pathologist, this was consistent with striking his head against and object as he tried to crawl out of the building, which might have caused a concussion type head injury, preventing him from leaving.
“The nature of the burns suggest they occurred after the head injury and collapse.”
Related article: Body-cam footage shows Declan Lancaster shouting at police as he is arrested after fatal fire which killed Patryk Mortimer
Mr Brooke said Mr Mortimer had been “very unlucky to die as he did” and added; “If he chose to leave from the window, like everyone else, or stayed in his room, which suffered little damage, he would have survived.
“It is only because he left his room, understandably, he was overcome by flames in the corridor.
“He died, sadly, just a few feet from the fire exit.”
The court heard the owners of the building, which had caused controversy in the community because of some tenants who had caused trouble in the past, have been left with a £630,000 after the insurance company declined to pay out after the blaze.
Lancaster, of no fixed address, admitted manslaughter and arson being reckless as to the endangerment of life.
He repeatedly interrupted the sentence hearing, initially by whistling, complaining “I’ve already heard this” and later by telling the judge “you are ******* me off now”.
He was removed from the hearing before the judge imposed the life sentence or said he must serve at least five years before he is eligible to apply for parole.
Judge Paul Sloan QC said the arsonist, who has a “fascination with fire”, “poses a high level of danger to the public” and had been targeting another rival, not Mr Mortimer.
Judge Sloan told him: “Your motivation was to scare, to frighten him, possibly because you believed him to have [a sex offense conviction in his past].
“You also wanted to be re-housed and you wanted to burn the place down and render it unusable.”
The judge said he had “no doubt whatsoever” Lancaster is a significant risk to the public and warned: “In all likelihood he will remain incarcerated for a considerable time before the parole board conclude he is no longer a danger.”
Mr Brooke told the court how after the fire, when the identity of the arsonist remained a mystery, Lancaster confessed to his new girlfriend.
But the court heard he “didn’t appear upset and indeed appeared proud of what he had done“.
After he split from the woman he sent her a letter which confessed to the killing and warned he would “do the same thing” to her new man.
Police outside the former Manor House Care Home following the death of Patryk Mortimer in a fire in the early hours.
Lancaster had initially denied he started the blaze and told police: “Do you think I’m going to burn my house down” and “Do you think I’m going to murder my best friend, are you ****** daft?”
But he later told a prison officer he had been responsible and eventually confessed to detectives.
The court heard Lancaster has 36 convictions for offences which include arson, damaging property and violence.
He set fire to his home as a child and sparked more blazes while growing up.
The court heard Lancaster has personality disorders but the judge said that offered little mitigation for the fatal offence as he had voluntarily consumed drink and drugs.
Nicholas Lumley QC, defending, said this was a “senseless and truly tragic loss of a man’s life” and that Lancaster, who was 21 when he started the fire, was immature.
The court heard Lancaster and other residents had banged on Mr Mortimer’s window from the outside once they had got to safety and realised he was not there.