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Louis Mayhew of Clarence Avenue, Margate, jailed for reckless arson as his lover slept

By Lynn Cox

An engineering boss admitted he was drunk before starting a revenge fire near a bedroom where his lover slept.

Louis Mayhew - who was high on a mix of cocaine and vodka - later confessed to a psychotherapist that he has a “fascination with starting blazes”.

The 25-year-old had poured petrol over himself outside his home in Clarence Avenue, Margate intending to turn himself into a human torch.

Louis Mayhew has been locked up for four years
Louis Mayhew has been locked up for four years

His lover, Sophie Gumbrell, heard him say: “You can watch me burn alive”.

But the hapless electrical engineer chose a jerrycan with little fuel and so instead set fire to his dressing gown and left it outside a bedroom where his lover was asleep.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how in September last year he started two fires at the detached house and then tried to blame his girlfriend.

Prosecutor Vivian Walters said: “The defendant’s actions were not simply a drunken attempt to kill himself which accidentally caused danger to others.

“It was a violent and highly dangerous attention-seeking response to an argument with his girlfriend and was fuelled by drink and drugs, and which could easily have killed her or others.”

Louis Mayhew has been given a seven-year extended prison sentence. Picture: Kent Police (7814413)
Louis Mayhew has been given a seven-year extended prison sentence. Picture: Kent Police (7814413)

Mayhew, who had run his own electrical engineering company, has been given a seven year extended jail sentence after admitting reckless arson.

He will serve two-thirds of an immediate four year term before being eligible for parole and after release will then serve an extra three years on licence.

Judge Rupert Lowe told him: “You didn’t want to kill anyone but in doing what you did there was a risk of somebody being killed.”

The prosecutor told how the girlfriend Sophie Gumbrell had gone to bed at between 1.30am and 2am when Mayhew, who had downed a litre of vodka that day, began displaying paranoid behaviour.

Ms Walters said: “She locked the door and he began banging on the door, shouting: ‘a bit of support would have been nice', and 'you don’t know what is going on’.”

After the fire has started, Ms Gumbrell saw an orange glow underneath the door. She panicked and dropped the door key and was unable to escape through a window.

"You didn’t want to kill anyone but in doing what you did there was a risk of somebody being killed...” Judge Rupert Lowe

Ms Walters added: "She heard him shout, 'get out of my house'. And then told her to get out as the house was on fire."

The prosecutor told how she eventually left through the door as Mayhew asked for water to tackle the fire - but while she was away, he started a second fire inside the room.

Firefighters arrived as a neighbour with a hose tackled the blaze and Mayhew then accused Ms Gumbrell of starting it.

As he was being treated by paramedics, he was heard shouting: “They’re going to hurt me."

He added: “She set fire to the bed. I tried to get her out."

Judge Lowe told him that was one of a number of lies he had told about the reasons behind starting the fire.

Kent Police investigating officer Kerry Whiting said: "Arson is a very serious offence and we can only be thankful that Mayhew’s reckless behaviour did not result in more severe consequences.

"Luckily no one was hurt that day, nevertheless, he put people’s lives at risk and as such will now spend time in prison."

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