Arsonist made couple’s life hell for ten years

Reynolds started a fire at the Browns' door

Reynolds started a fire at the Browns' door

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A COUPLE today spoke of their ten years of torment which ended in their neighbour setting fire to their family home.

Nigel and Elaine Brown, from Ormiston, East Lothian, said they felt “reassured” after Michael Reynolds was yesterday sent to the State Hospital in Carstairs for starting the blaze in November last year.

The couple were left stranded in an upstairs bedroom with their two-year-old son as smoke and fumes spread through their home after Reynolds poured petrol or other accelerant on their door before lighting it.

At the time of the attack, Reynolds was on a bail condition banning him from entering the village’s Meadowbank Crescent, where the blaze took place.

Mr and Mrs Brown told how they were threatened intermittently by Reynolds for years before he was charged with breach of the peace in May last year.

They claimed nothing had been done to protect them and said they were taking legal advice about how the situation had been handled.

Mr Brown, 40, said: “He thought there were sensors in the wall and that we were spying on him and that the police were spying on him.

“He was just shouting through the wall – what he would do to me and what he would do to Elaine. He threatened to burn us in our beds and said he would burn the sensors out of the walls.

“In May last year, I was out in the back garden and he started with the threats over the fence. He said he would stab me and that he was going to pay someone to do it.

“He was charged and part of his bail conditions was that he was to stay out of the street but numerous witnesses saw him coming in and out.”

Reynolds, 37, was sent to the high-security hospital yesterday after being found not guilty of attempting to murder the couple on account of insanity.

At the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Turnbull made him the subject of an interim compulsion order. Reynolds had earlier been detained in the Orchard Clinic at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and had delusions.

Mrs Brown, 37, said: “We own our property and the property next to us was council property. We do not feel that East Lothian Council has done enough to help us. There were threats shouted through the wall but it took for him to carry something out before something was done. Something could have been done long before it reached that stage.

“It seemed as though we never had enough evidence for them – it seemed as if the law was on his side.”

The couple still own the home in Meadowbank Crescent, but are living with relatives while they decide whether to keep the property.

“If I’m honest, it’s a nice house but it doesn’t feel like mine any more,” Mrs Brown said. “It’s been a shock and it’s been very difficult at times but we will get through it.”

Ormiston councillor Jim Gillies said: “The situation was made more difficult because the neighbour [Reynolds] was not a tenant, it was his partner that was a tenant at that address with East Lothian Council.

“He was not supposed to be in the village at all I believe.

“I feel sorry for Nigel and Elaine because they are a lovely couple and I will take this issue up again with the housing department. The system didn’t work for them as such.”