A TWISTED firestarter has been jailed over a life-threatening blaze which caused £20,000 worth of damage to his East Renfrewshire Council flat – and could have killed his neighbours.

Matthew Cooper set three deliberate blazes at his home, starting one of the blazes in an electrical cupboard, next to the gas pipe and boiler.

The 29-year-old, who has remained in solitary confinement since being remanded in custody almost a year ago, has refused to engage with staff and other inmates, and had to have a solicitor appointed by the court to defend him after he refused to speak to lawyers about his case.

His trial in July heard that he started fires on his bed, couch and in the boiler cupboard of his council flat in Ayr Road, Newton Mearns, on September 12, 2017.

He then left his home while the fire took effect and headed to Stewart Street police station, in Glasgow city centre, where, the court heard, he handed over two screwdrivers and a knife, saying “you’ll be wanting these, too” – after telling officers he had torched his home.

The court heard he told the officers he was armed with the weapons “in case anyone annoyed” him and “for stabbing c****”.

The fire service was contacted and Watch Commander Henry Drummond concluded that the three separate blazes, and white spirit round the sofa, proved the fires had been set deliberately, resulting in £20,300 in damage.

Jurors took just 80 minutes to find Cooper guilty of deliberately torching his flat to the danger of life of his neighbours, and sentence was deferred for background reports to be prepared by social workers and a doctor.
Cooper returned to the dock at Paisley Sheriff Court last week to learn his fate.

Defence solicitor Gordon Ritchie, who had been appointed by the court to represent Cooper, said: “For just under a year, whether this is a choice or because of a condition he has, he has lived, in effect, in solitary confinement.

“He either eats on his own or returns straight to his cell.

“There is no interaction with him of any kind with staff or other prisoners.

“He keeps himself to himself.”

As he caged Cooper for four years for the offences, backdated to September 2017, when he was first remanded in custody, Sheriff Seith Ireland said: “This is a serious offence. No disposal other than custody is appropriate.”