A cafe boss who put scores of lives in danger when he started a fire at a block of flats “in a moment of madness” has been jailed for three years.
Andrew Mason-Flucke lit a match in a bin containing household waste at Ashby’s Point in Walters Farm Road, Tonbridge, two nights before Christmas Day last year.
Maidstone Crown Court heard the 46-year-old chef, who runs a “flourishing” business at an indoor bowling club, went into the communal bin store surrounded by wooden cladding, to urinate.
Mason-Flucke has been jailed after the arson. Picture: Kent Police
After starting the blaze he left, closing the door behind him.
The fire at the block of 92 flats spread rapidly, putting the lives of the 180 residents in jeopardy.
The alarm was raised by Jodie May, who lived with her three-year-old son on the first floor.
She opened a door to the balcony to see smoke.
She woke her son and alerted other residents before firefighters evacuated all residents for up to two hours.
Prosecutor Caroline Moonan said as well as a risk of smoke inhalation, there was an added danger of the flames spreading up outside the building.
Mason-Flucke, of Gorham Drive, Tonbridge, was identified on CCTV footage from inside the bin store. He eventually admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Miss Moonan said Mason-Flucke had no reason for singling out the flats, or for using the bin store as a toilet as his mother lived just 50 metres away in another block.
Police appealed for information with this CCTV picture. Picture: Kent Police
About £2,160 worth of damage was caused to the bin store.
The fire started at about 10pm and spread to a communal corridor.
“Plastic ducting and fittings in the ceiling had melted, light fittings had been damaged and electrical cables were hanging down,” said Miss Moonan.
“The fire expert described the risk as rapidly developing, typical of flaming fire from the start.
“The material in the bin was household waste, readily combustible and easy to ignite with a lighter or match.”
Mason-Flucke at first denied being responsible, despite being shown the CCTV. He later told police he found a match, lit it and put it in the bin.
“The defendant said he did not intend to cause any harm to the residents or any damage to the property,” added Miss Moonan.
He has a previous conviction for criminal damage after throwing a bag at a car windscreen.
Picture released from CCTV at the time of the arson. Picture: Kent Police
Judge Adele Williams said the offence was “much too serious” for anything other than immediate imprisonment.
“There was no apparent reason as to why you did this and I bear in mind that limited damage was caused,” she said.
“But I regard the fact that smoke filled the flat of one of the residents where she was residing with her three-year-old son as very serious indeed.
“There were 92 flats with 182 residents. You put their safety and their lives in jeopardy.”
The judge added she had taken into account the many positive things said about him in testimonials, but custody was inevitable.
Submitting that a suspended sentence could be passed, Nicolas Robinson, defending, said Mason-Flucke employed six people at his flourishing business and was also a carer for his wife, who wept as he was jailed.
He had started the fire, he said, “in a complete moment of madness”.
“He realises just how stupid a thing it was to do and the risk he placed other people in and is really at a loss as to why he did it,” he said.
“It was in the spur of the moment and there is no evidence that any accelerants were used.”
Detective Constable Marc Symonds said: ‘Mason-Flucke’s actions that day were impulsive and reckless.
"I doubt if he ever considered the potential consequences of setting fire to the contents of a rubbish area, but what is clear is the scant regard he showed for the welfare of the many residents living in these flats.
"It is entirely conceivable that his actions could have led to the deaths or serious injury to a number of residents."