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Cam woman's stables torched because drug fuelled arsonist 'thought they were portal for demons'

By The Citizen  |  Posted: June 01, 2014

Mark James Smith

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A DRUG fuelled homeless man set fire to a Cam stables twice after he believed it was a portal for demons.

Mark Smith did more than £40,000 worth of damage to Joanne Jones’s stables in Field Lane during the two blazes and left her terrified that she was the victim of a campaign of hate.

But Gloucester Crown Court heard 25-year-old Smith was suffering from psychosis after a heroin and alcohol binge while he was sleeping rough.

Ms Jones was left with £30,920 worth of damage after he set 120 bales of hay, a wooden hay shelter and two horse trailers alight on January 28, last year.

But he returned on June 17 and started another blaze, causing a further £11,700 of damage and destroying a horse trailer before calling the fire service on 999.

She was said to have been left petrified when Smith returned on a third and left graffiti on her 12ft wicker gate stating “move on or you will burn”.

The court heard police had no idea who was behind the crimes, which left Ms Jones uninsurable, until Smith came off the drugs and handed himself into Dursley Police Station.

He also admitted breaking into Cam Woodfield School on October 20, 2013 in a bid to get a drink from the cafeteria.

Judge Jamie Tabor QC jailed Smith for four years, saying it was a “terrible, terrible ordeal” for Ms Jones, who did not know Smith, and left her horses scared to go back to the stables.

Prosecutor Janine Wood said in a victim impact statement, Ms Jones described Smith as “evil and twisted”.

Defending, Andrew Parker said he suffered a bereavement, which led to a complete breakdown in 2012.

He said: “He was drinking excessively and taking hard drugs, to the extent he developed certain delusions.

“He believed this stable was a portal for demons.

“He managed to get himself clean and in a sober state he realised what he had been up to and had the courage to face it. He went in and admitted what he had done.”

The court heard he had been clean since going to jail and was taking medication to help stop the voices in his head.

Judge Tabor told him: “Joanne Jones thought someone was targeting her and that person was full of hate and vengeance against her.

“She saw what she loved most in her life go up in smoke in a terrible fire. When she eventually put that right, six months later, it went up again.

“You have caused this woman enormous distress.

“You are one example, a very powerful example, of what happens to a young man, who I accept had a difficult life, turns to drugs as a way of countering the problems they face.

“I believe you genuinely regret what you did at a time when they had not got a clue who was committing these offences.”

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