A judge has taken the unusual step of admonishing an 84-year-old Ayrshire man who torched his home with petrol because he could not cope with his partner’s failing health.
Lady Rae yesterday told Sydney Galloway that it was a “very serious offence, putting others at risk of death, including yourself”, but said it was the “only proper disposal”.
The High Court in Glasgow heard that Mr Galloway and his 84-year-old partner Margaret Leadbetter had to be rescued by firefighters on Sunday as flames tore through their house in Girvan, Ayrshire.
As Mr Galloway was taken through the front door, the roof started 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 Mrs Leadbetter’s worsening condition and was struggling to cope. He also said he wanted to die and take her with him.”
Mr Galloway admitted wilfully setting the fire at his home on Dalrymple Street to the danger of the life of his partner of 25 years.
The judge said: “I have already indicated that in this particular case, despite the serious nature of the offence, custody is not the right route and would not serve justice, in particular circumstances put before me … I have to have regard to your particular personal circumstances.”
Lady Rae added: “In the very unusual circumstances of this case, in my view the proper disposal is an admonition. You are free to go.”
Mr Nicol previously told the court that Mr Galloway put timber and furniture behind an inner door of the house and then poured petrol in the living room and hallway and lit a match.
The pensioner 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 Mrs Leadbetter she was confused and unable to recall anything about the incident.
Mr Galloway and his partner sustained only minor burns in the fire. Defence counsel Tony Lenehan said the case was “extraordinary”.