A man has been cleared of arson at flats in Sheerness where an elderly man had to be rescued because of doubt about who started it.
Paul Jarvis had been due to stand trial at Maidstone Crown Court on June 15 but it was abandoned when a prosecution witness caused alarm by arriving with a live shotgun cartridge and drugs.
The trial was listed again, but the 38-year-old, of Queens Road, Minster, walked free after no evidence was offered against him.
He had denied arson with intent to endanger life and an alternative offence of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Mr Jarvis was alleged to have torched the flats in Strode Crescent on April 9, 2014, endangering the lives of John Lawson, then 72, and Steven Williamson.
Prosecutor Don Ramble said an investigation was conducted after the witness was arrested at court with the live ammunition and drugs.
It was discovered he had mental health issues and records showed a history of fire-setting. He was at the building in Strode Crescent at the time.
Another man visiting the property also had a conviction for arson.
Mr Ramble said it meant a jury could not be sure who the culprit was.
Recorder David Elvin QC entered not guilty verdicts on the charges Mr Jarvis faced and granted him £35 in travel costs to and from court.
He criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for wasting court time by listing the case for trial.
“The court is very much under the cosh as to the amount of work it has to do,” he said.
“It is highly unsatisfactory the court was not told and time has been wasted and this trial has continued to block the lists when other cases could have been brought on.”
Retired musician Mr Lawson was trapped on the top floor of the building late at night and had to be rescued by firefighters.
Neighbours alerted his ex-wife Sandra Lawson and she arrived to find him unconscious in the street, wearing an oxygen mask.
“It was a big shock – he was jet black,” she said. “I couldn’t see anything except his eyes and everyone was standing round him.”