Fire starter was 'trying to keep warm'

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 12:00 23/01/2013

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A Manawatu man who lit a fire at a primary school denied trying to burn the place down, saying instead he was trying to keep warm.

Jay Philip Christensen-Free, 19, also admitted causing other damage to the school but denied defecating in a cloak bay.

A police summary says he and a young associate went to Ashhurst School about 4pm on June 10.

He kicked a soccer ball and threw marbles into windows to smash them, broke into the school and threw flour around the office.

Three hours later he was back.

He lit shredded books and fanned the flames with flyspray.

The summary also said Christensen-Free "defecated on to the floor of [a] cloak bay then wipes his backside with a pair of shoes".

He denied this but confirmed he had stolen a Kookaburra cricket bat.

In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Judge Jennifer Binns said: "Your explanation for the offending was that you were angry – your grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer."

He also told police he started the blaze to keep warm.

Christensen-Free has a history of mental illness, but he had recently gained employment.

On charges of arson, burglary and wilful damage, Christensen-Free was sentenced to 120 hours' community work, nine months' supervision and four months' community detention. He was also ordered to pay the school $1173.81 reparation.

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- Manawatu Standard

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