A SMIRKING yob has admitted killing a dad-of-three with mental health problems by setting fire to his home.
Paul Nash pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Andrew Simon during a brief hearing at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.
The Hartlepool Mail can now reveal how Mr Simon suffered years of abuse at the hands of drug users and yobs who used his home to carry out their destructive habits.
Detecitve Superintendent Peter McPhillips, who led the investigation into the fire, said: “Andrew Simon had a mental health illness.
“He was very vulnerable and was taken advantage of.”
Nash was one of those who blighted the 44-year-old’s life and those of other residents in Dent Street, Hartlepool, before the fateful fire in the early hours of Tuesday, June 11.
The 29-year-old finally admitted starting the blaze four months to the day that Mr Simon was killed by smoke inhalation in the terraced house.
Even when Nash was arrested, the gravity of what he had done was not evident on his face as police CCTV footage shows him smirking while being booked in at Middlesbrough Police Station.
And despite his guilty plea, Crown Prosecution Service barristers are still rejecting the 29-year-old’s version of events due to his basis of plea that the fire was more of an accident.
The case was adjourned for three weeks to determine if a special court hearing will be necessary for a judge to decide the circumstances before he is sentenced.
Nash, whose address was given as Holme House Prison, Stockton, was remanded in custody.
The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Simon-Bourne Arton, said: “You have had the good sense to plead guilty to this indictment. However, there still remains the issue of the basis of your plea.
“Your solicitor will be coming to prison to discuss that with you.
“You will come back in the week of November 4, in the meantime you are remanded in custody.”
Nash, who wore a white T-shirt, spoke only to confirm his name and to say “guilty” when the charge was put to him.
ANDREW Simon spent the final days of his life being bullied by drug addicts who preyed on his vulnerability.
The 44-year-old had lived in Dent Street, Hartlepool, for the last three years and struggled daily with mental health problems.
He was routinely visited by a community psychiatric nurse due to his condition.
But his other visitors plagued his life as his home became a regular haunt for local drug users.
Police say they were frequently called to the dad-of-three’s home due to arguments, noise and drug and alcohol issues.
Police chiefs say they had been working with Hartlepool Borough Council to find a solution to the problem.
But an answer to the issue did not come quick enough as Paul Nash – one of those blighting the street – set fire to the building on June 11, killing Andrew.
Andrew was found by firefighters on the landing of the terraced house after being overcome by the smoke billowing from his living room.
Detective Superintendent Peter McPhillips said: “Drug addicts were often in his house and the address had become well known to the police and local authority for anti-social behaviour.
“We were both working together to resolve these issues.
“It was not Mr Simon but others who were instigating the problems at his house”.
Nash was caught on CCTV walking down Dent Street and going into Andrew’s home at 12.31am on the fateful morning.
A fire was then started on the settee in the front room.
Det Supt McPhillips said: “He was there for a matter of minutes.
“He leaves, looks back inside through a window and walks away. As he walks away, you can actually see the flickering of the flames start.”
It was 12.45am by the time the fire brigade was alerted by a neighbour.
Firefighters tackled a “large blaze” and found Andrew unconscious on the floor in the doorway between his bedroom and landing. A smoke alarm had been fitted to the house but it is thought the fumes were too thick for him to escape.
Efforts were made to resuscitate Andrew, but he was pronounced dead at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton. Post-mortem examinations found he had died as a result of smoke inhalation.
Nash was quickly identified by police officers who watched the CCTV footage that had been captured by another resident in the street.
Nash, who was well known by the town’s cops, was already in custody after being arrested later on the same day on suspicion of criminal damage.
He was remanded in Holme House Prison for the separate offence and that gave police time to build a case against him before arresting him on July 16.
Even with the delay, the gravity of the crime is still not apparent on Nash’s face when he is captured casually smirking on camera footage at the custody desk of Middlesbrough Police Station.
Det Supt McPhillips said: “Nash is a loner. During our investigations, he didn’t appear to have any friends”.
Andrew was dad to John, 24, Matthew, 22, and Jessica, 18. All three children now live in Wales.
He had a simple life in Hartlepool, and had visited a bookmakers in Hartlepool on the day of his death, casually dressed in a red hoodie and holding a carrier bag.
He had been heard arguing with a woman that same day, which led to the arrest of a 40-year-old woman on suspicion of arson after the incident, but she was released without charge.
His mother, Barbara, 82, and brother Peter, 46, still live in Hartlepool and helped with several police appeals as detectives put together a case against Nash.
She handed over a childhood photo of Andrew to help with the appeals, and said: “Andrew used to really enjoy spending his holidays in Crimdon, laughing and having adventures with his friends.”
Det Supt McPhillips said that despite the chaos that had consumed Andrew’s life, there was no obvious motive apparent throughout the investigation.
He added: “We haven’t found a reason for a dispute.”