Serial Hartlepool arsonist watched brigade deal with blaze he started in Grade II listed building

A serial arsonist branded a danger to the public has been jailed for four years for his latest blaze.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 4:00 pm

Stefan Geary, 50, from Hartlepool, has served numerous prison sentences in the past for setting fire to public buildings and vehicles.

Teesside Crown Court has now heard how he gets pleasure from seeing the fire brigade put them out.

He had not long been released from a 15-year sentence for arson when he started a fire in a derelict Grade II former community centre in South Bank, Middlesbrough, last September.

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Stefan Geary.
Stefan Geary.

Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said Geary told police he started the fire in the early hours of the morning to keep warm but that it got out of control.

He watched the building burn and confessed to being responsible to the fire brigade.

The cost of the damage to the building, which was used by rough sleepers and drug users, was estimated to be between £150,000 and £200,000.

Mr Faulks said: “It was a severe fire which had reached the roof space. The entire roof was destroyed and a gable wall was close to collapse.

Ian Hayton, Cleveland Fire Brigade chief fire officer.

"On speaking to the [fire brigade] watch manager he said he was the arsonist and had just finished a custodial sentence for arson.

"He stated he’d been to South Bank police station to hand himself in but it was closed.”

Judge Jonathan Carroll said Geary, of Furness Street, Hartlepool, was a dangerous offender due to the risk he posed of committing further offences.

He even told a probation officer he had thought about starting fire in his prison cell while on remand awaiting sentence.

In 1995 Geary set fire to a bedroom in a house he decorated and was jailed for three years.

Then in 1999, he torched three buses in Blackpool when he was given another three years.

And in 2003, he was jailed for 15 years after setting fire to a church, junior school and comprehensive school, all in Jarrow.

Judge Carroll said: "You are someone who gains a measure of excitement by lighting fires and seeing them put out.

"That’s what you did on this occasion. The level of danger here is very significant indeed.”

In addition to being jailed for four years, Geary will be on licence for four more years when he is released.

Defence barrister Paul Green, mitigating, said Geary made full admissions and was prepared to accept any help he is offered to try to change his ways.

Cleveland Fire Brigade later welcomed the sentence.

Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton said: “As a Brigade we fully support the sentence handed to Mr Stefan Geary which will ensure that Cleveland is a safer place.

"This is clear message that such criminal and irresponsible behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated within the communities, we strive to make a better place for everyone living in them.

“Arson causes a blight on our local area and community facilities and we will continue to work with our partners in Cleveland Police and local authorities to bring those individuals who are intent on causing damage and destruction through starting deliberate fires to justice.”

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