Chester judge commends have-a-go hero who tackled Kelsall arsonist


Natalie Barnett

A JUDGE has commended a have-a-go hero who wrestled an arsonist to the ground moments after a car was set on fire just yards from where a family lay sleeping.

After spotting the burning car Richard Whitehouse tried to put out the flames before chasing balaclava-clad John Buck through the streets of Kelsall, near Chester, restraining him until police arrived.

Buck, 26, told police the fire was a revenge attack carried out on behalf of an acquaintance who he refused to name. Moments after the 3am attack, Buck sent a text to a friend saying: “Their car is on fire, job done”, Chester Crown Court heard.

Paulinis Barnes, prosecuting, said that fortunately, three people asleep inside the house in Hallows Close, Kelsall, were not injured but firefighters said the flames could have spread to another vehicle and to the house following the March 3 attack.

Mr Barnes said Mr Whitehouse awoke to the sound of breaking glass and when he looked out of his window saw a man wearing a balaclava,running away. Ten minutes later, more breaking glass was heard and on spotting the burning car, Mr Whitehouse got dressed, told his wife to call the fire service, and went across the road with buckets of water to douse the flames. He then chased Buck before managing to restrain him. Buck had been drinking prior to the fire.

Buck, a greenkeeper, of Yeld Lane, Kelsall, said he was appalled at his actions and apologised.

Peter Killen, defending, said Buck was hard working and a man of previous good character but had been suffering mental health problems and had been hearing voices. Buck, who had previously made an attempt on his own life, had been suffering with alcohol issues and drug misuse. At the time of the incident, Buck had lost control of his emotions, Mr Killen said.

“It appears that has arisen from an unhappy domestic childhood.” added Mr Killen.

Sentencing Buck to four years in prison, the Recorder of Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards, said: “You deliberately went out to commit arson on someone’s car parked on the driveway close to a house where three people were sleeping. What worries me is that in the course of the event you sent a message saying “Job done.”

Custody is inevitable.”

Praising Mr Whitehouse, before instructing that he receive a crown court commendation, Mr Edwards said: “I am very impressed with the actions of Richard Whitehouse who behaved in an exemplary manner. He acted in a very public spirited, courageous and brave manner.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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