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Schizophrenic torches home after paranoia that estate agents were listening

PUBLISHED: 15:42 31 July 2012

HJ Court gavel

HJ Court gavel

Archant

A Highgate woman torched her home after she became paranoid that her estate agents had set up a listening post next door, a court heard.

Helen Martin, a mental health patient at Highgate Mental Health Centre, stuffed a telephone directory in a toaster and set fire to her mattress before alerting her neighbour to the blaze.

The woman who lived below Martin’s flat had given birth just four days before and was at home looking after her newborn baby.

Martin, a paranoid schizophrenic, had already punched holes in the wall using a mallet or hammer before carrying out the arson attack, Blackfriars Crown Court heard on Tuesday (July 31). The 46-year-old later told police she had started the blaze in her flat to try and rid her home of “the voices”.

Prosecutor Nicholas Alexander said: “She had been hearing voices within her flat and they had been driving her crazy. She was displaying symptoms of her paranoid schizophrenia, thinking that the estate agents were listening from the flat next door.”

Martin pleaded guilty to one count of arson at Blackfriars Crown Court on Tuesday (July 31). She admitted setting fire to her home in Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, on August 31, last year.

But it was agreed she had no intention of harming her neighbours.

Martin was arrested by police later that evening after she threw stones at a police patrol car.

Sentencing, Judge John Hillen said: “What you did was because you were ill and what is important for you and for the protection of the public is to make sure you receive treatment to help you to get better and help you manage your illness.

“This is not a case where a punishment or anything of that kind is appropriate.”

Martin was ordered under the Mental Health Act to stay at the Highgate Mental Health Centre in Dartmouth Park Hill to carry on her treatment.

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