United Kingdom

Moment shameless arsonist plays the hero

Shocking footage has captured the moment a shameless arsonist posed as the hero when he told police he helped to save his neighbour from a fire that he had set. 

Robert Barnett, 30, was seen running into a blaze on Whitehall Terrace, Sunderland, in August 2019 after a fire was sparked inside an upstairs flat. 

He claimed this was in an attempt to save the woman living above him, who was ultimately forced to jump from the window to escape the flames. 

Barnett alleged he heard 'screaming' and saw the woman's staircase engulfed in flames - but CCTV had captured him entering the address moments earlier. 

It was later proved he was responsible for the fire. 

The man initially denied involvement and insisted he was only attempting to help his neighbour. However, he later admitted arson and being reckless as to whether life is endangered.

Barnett is due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on July 12.

Robert Barnett (above after the fire), 30, was seen running into a blaze on Whitehall Terrace, Sunderland, in August 2019 after a fire was sparked inside an upstairs flat

Detective Sergeant David Vincent, of Northumbria Police, said: 'Robert Barnett tried to convince everybody that he was the hero, who was willing to sacrifice his own safety in a bid to rescue his neighbour who he believed to be trapped upstairs.

'But his account was built on lies - knowing full well that he was the one who had lit the flame and caused the significant blaze that had engulfed the property.

'The victim suffered significant injuries as a result of the blaze and her health has since deteriorated.

Pictured: Robert Barnett captured on CCTV moments after setting the fire in Sunderland

Pictured: Barnett captured on CCTV acting the hero during the fire despite having set it

Barnett is due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on July 12

'It must have been a horrifying experience for her, fearing she was trapped and her only escape was to jump out of her upstairs window.

'It is therefore imperative that the person responsible is brought to justice, and I sincerely hope this outcome can offer the victim and her family some comfort.

'Barnett should be absolutely ashamed of his actions, and I am pleased that he has now been convicted at court.

'His actions were reckless and unlawful - and he now faces a significant jail term as a result of his decisions that night.'

After the fire had started, Barnett was seen on CCTV running out of his address in just his boxer shorts and calling 999.

He then entered his downstairs flat and put on a pair of trousers that he believed were fire-resistant, along with a quilt, and darted up the stairs of the burning property. 

In interview, Barnett was shown CCTV footage that tracked his movements prior to the blaze and clearly showed him entering his neighbour's upstairs flat

Barnett, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on April 13. Pictured: Fire damage

Barnett alleged he heard 'screaming' and saw the woman's staircase engulfed in flames (above, damage to the stairs)

Barnett, who suffered burns, was forced out of the flat due to the ferocity of the fire - by which point the occupant had already jumped from an upstairs window.

In interview, Barnett was shown CCTV footage that tracked his movements prior to the blaze and clearly showed him entering his neighbour's upstairs flat. 

Barnett, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on April 13.

He is due to be sentenced at the same court on July 12.

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