Ayrshire pensioner set fire to family home as he could not cope

The house of Sydney Galloway at Dalrymple Street Girvan.'Sydney Galloway and his 84-year-old partner Margaret Leadbetter had to be rescued by firefighters. It is alleged that Galloway set fire to the house deliberately.
The house of Sydney Galloway at Dalrymple Street Girvan.'Sydney Galloway and his 84-year-old partner Margaret Leadbetter had to be rescued by firefighters. It is alleged that Galloway set fire to the house deliberately.
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An 84-year-old man set fire to his home because he could not cope with his partner’s failing health, a court was told yesterday.

Sydney Galloway, from Girvan, and his 84-year-old partner Margaret Leadbetter had to be rescued by firefighters as flames licked through the house.

As Mr Galloway was taken through the front door the roof began to collapse and burning embers fell on him.

He later confessed to medical staff that he had started the fire.

Prosecutor Allan Nicol said: “He explained that he was under pressure with Ms Leadbetter’s worsening condition and was struggling to cope. He also said he wanted to die and take her with him.”

Yesterday at the High Court in Glasgow Mr Galloway admitted wilfully setting the fire in Girvan, Ayshire, on 26 November, to the danger of 
the life of his partner of 25 years Ms Leadbetter, who is also 84.

Mr Nicole told the court that Mr Galloway put timber and furniture behind the front door of the house and then poured petrol in the living room and hallway and lit a match. Mr Galloway, who had earlier taken five sleeping tablets and some whisky, then went to bed.

The blaze was spotted at 7am by a paper boy who saw smoke coming from the house and called the fire brigade.

The court heard that when police spoke to Ms Leadbetter she was confused and unable to recall anything about the incident.

Ms Leadnetter’s daughter Margaret Lobben told police that she was worried about her mother’s increasing frailty She said she visited her weekly and formed the impression that Mr Galloway was struggling to cope, but said he did not want help.

During a police interview Mr Galloway said that he was struggling to cope with looking after Ms Leadbetter and doing all the household tasks.

He said: “I doused the living room and hallway with petrol and set it alight using a match. Before I’d set it on fire I took sleeping tablets. Maybe about five or that and a good half tumbler of whisky. I was enough to make me do what I done.”

He said he wanted to kill 
himself, but did not want to kill his partner, although he knew she was in the house at the time.

Judge Lady Rae deferred sentence on Galloway until next month for background reports and allowed him bail.