An 83-year-old woman lost all her treasured possessions after a delusional alcoholic neighbour started a major blaze.

The fire, which began when Mark Harper set fire to a sheepskin coat in a bathroom, severely damaged his sister’s flat, where he was temporary living, and the pensioner’s home beneath causing a total of £86,000 worth of damage.

When fire officers arrived to put out the blaze and smashed the front door glass to open it Harper twice struck out with a knife hitting a fireman on the hand but fortunately his protective gloves saved him from injury.

58-year-old Harper pleaded guilty to arson being reckless whether life was endangered and was jailed for three years two months. A charge of assaulting the fire officer was left to lie on the file.

Liverpool Crown Court was told on Friday (May 17) that the incident took place at about 7pm on October 18 last year in Millersdale Close, Eastham.

Homeless Harper was staying in the upstairs rented flat while his sister Lyndsey was away and there had previously been complaints from neighbours about his loud outbursts and the TV being on too loud.

After seeing that he was waving a knife with a four inch blade around he was told to discard it which he did and when the fire officers got into the premises he looked “distraught” and he was given oxygen for smoke inhalation. He also had burnt hands, said Bernice Campbell, prosecuting.

He told police he believed people were “out to come for him” and wanted to draw attention to the property to get assistance.

She explained that both his sister and the 83-year-old had to be re-housed causing a further £21,000 loss to Magenta Living.

Rebecca Smith, defending, said that Harper has committed 52 previous offences but nothing similar. He began drinking at the age of 13 and is a chronic alcoholic who is homeless and isolated. A psychiatrist had found he was delusional and suffering from persecutory thoughts.

Judge Gary Woodhall said that the roof of the premises was almost entirely consumed by the fire and it and loft collapsed into the flat. The occupants have had to be rehoused and the property has lain empty since.

He said the 83-year-old had lost all her possessions. “One cannot began to imagine how at that time of life having all your personal property destroyed you deal with it.”