A MAN who set fire to his family home in an attempt to take his own life was battling an eviction notice.

Leslie David Gray ignited a sofa and a piece of cloth at a property in St Martin’s Close, Winnall, before going to sleep on December 30, 2019. He was awoken by screams from a neighbour and climbed out of a bedroom window to escape.

Gray had been served with an eviction notice in August, which he was fighting. The property belonged to Winchester City Council.

On Monday the 36-year-old, of Winnall Manor Road, was jailed for 28 months at Winchester Crown Court after he previously pleaded guilty to arson.

Prosecuting, Peter Pride said: “A member of the public had called police to say that their friend, the defendant, had set fire to the house and was seen trying to climb out the window to escape.”

The court was told that Gray had told a friend that he was going to “set fire to the house and shortly afterwards they heard the fire alarm going off”.

The fire took hold of a Winchester City Council property in St Martins Close, Winnall

The fire took hold of a Winchester City Council property in St Martin's Close, Winnall

In a police interview, Gray said he had “lit some candles in the sitting room, fallen asleep and woke up to realise what was going on and in a sleepy state climbed out onto the roof”, but an investigation later revealed that he had set fire to a sofa and piece of cloth in the kitchen.

The fire service said that the blaze had been started by “a naked flame”. It had caused £21,509.19 of damage and a cat was found dead inside.

Mr Pride said that the incident had “underline tones of planning and revenge in view of the eviction proceedings that were ongoing”.

In mitigation, Richard Martin said: “The trigging factor appears to be the admission of his father into a care home and that was when things went drastically wrong.”

Mr Martin told the court that Gray has a history of substance misuse and depression which was “present at the time of the event” and has since suffered with PTSD as a result of the fire.

He continued: “This defendant was attempting to take his own life and clearly made a pretty substantial start, but for the shouting of that resident who knows what might have happened.”

Mr Martin said that Gray is no longer using cocaine and has stopped drinking alcohol, adding: “It seems there are all the signs that he is going to put his previous existence behind him.”

In sentencing, Miss Recorder A Power said that Gray had 27 convictions for 37 offences and said the fire was an escalation of his offending.