Six years for ‘total weirdo’ with sick blaze obsession

Damage to the South Clerk Street stairwell
Damage to the South Clerk Street stairwell
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NEIGHBOURS of a serial fireraiser jailed for nearly six years over a string of blazes today told how he had a history of setting wheelie bins alight in their street and making hoax calls to the fire service.

Rory McVay was described by neighbours as a “total weirdo” who showed a twisted “obsession” with fires before launching a campaign of terror in Edinburgh.

The 32-year-old was jailed yesterday after admitting threatening to burn down the home of a police detective “with his family inside”.

The threat came after McVay was arrested for starting at least three fires – one, in South Clerk Street in Newington, resulted in 22 people being evacuated by firefighters.

One of the victims of that blaze today said that she was pleased McVay had been jailed for his crimes, but pleaded for him to receive psychological treatment in prison to prevent him re-offending.

Judge Lady Smith told McVay at the High Court in Edinburgh that he had shown a “wicked disregard” for the victims during his fireraising spree.

Jailing him for five years and nine months, the judge said it was “disappointing” that McVay could offer no explanation for his actions.

But his neighbours in St Katherine’s Crescent in Gracemount said they were “not surprised” that McVay was responsible for the blazes.

One neighbour, who did not want to give her name, said: “He’s always been a total weirdo. He’s lived in the street for about ten years and he’s always been in trouble, breaking into people’s houses and things.

“He would set fire to wheelie bins and then wait for the fire brigade to arrive. He was doing that about four or five years ago. He would also go the phone box to make fake calls to the fire brigade then hide and watched what they did. It seemed to be an obsession.”

Another neighbour said: “He was well-known in the area and no-one is surprised by what happened.”

McVay, who has 25 previous convictions primarily for housebreaking, was believed to live in the street with his father. His father could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

During the fire at a tenement in South Clerk Street on October 25, 2009, residents were escorted downstairs by firefighters with breathing apparatus while two students were forced to jumped on to a mattress thrown from their first-floor flat after finding the stair was smoke filled and very hot.

One of the residents who was rescued said today she was grateful that police had caught McVay: “I’m glad he’s been sent to jail but he must receive psychological counselling to prevent him doing it again.”

McVay first struck at Hillside Street in Leith on December 1, 2008, when he set fire to bags of clothing and bikes in a stair serving eight flats. Firefighters had to lead 81-year-old resident Charles Corr to safety during the incident.

McVay struck again on October 12, 2009, in Oxford Street, Newington, where he set a bag of rubbish alight before making a 999 call from a nearby phone box to report a fire.

McVay was later detained by police in February this year on other matters. He asked if he was going to be interviewed by Detective Sergeant John Kavanagh.

He said he would “have the last laugh” and claimed that he had followed the officer home before stating he was going to burn down his house with his family inside.

amcewen@edinburghnews.com