An arsonist who stuffed burning toilet roll through his own letterbox before calling the fire brigade claiming to be stuck inside has been locked up.

Joshua Benn was caught out when firefighters spotted soot on toilet rolls in his flat and the pattern matched that of the sheets used to start the fire.

Benn had claimed to be trapped inside his flat but when the emergency services reached his address, they discovered him outside the building.

He told a firefighter that he had "previous for setting fire to my living room, but I've changed now" but Jolyon Perks, prosecuting, added: "In fact he hadn’t."

Mr Perks said the cost of the damage to his flat was estimated as £666. The front door of his flat had to be replaced after firefighters broke it down.

The fire had damaged some of the carpet and the front door.

Mr Perks said. "The fire was in a block of flats where there is a significant risk to others. There are flats either side of him and above his."

Teesside Crown Court heard that Benn had received a suspended sentence for setting fire to his last home, on Harcourt Street in Hartlepool, in 2021.

The 30-year-old tried to blame someone else for starting the fire, but the man was found to have been out of the area at the time of blaze.

The Northern Echo: Joshua BennJoshua Benn (Image: Cleveland Police)

Benn, of Glamis Walk, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered following the fire on March 20 last year.

Martin Scarborough, mitigating, said his client was ‘in drink’ at the time of the incident.

He added: “He has now been abstinent for some time but he is clearly somebody who does have mental health issues.

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"I appreciate that the pre-sentence report finds that there is a serious risk of him committing similar offences in the future but this would be his first custodial sentence."

Judge Howard Crowson branded the defendant a ‘dangerous offender’ as is passed an extended sentence of four and a half years.

He said: "You appear to have been affected by drink. You have health problems. I'm sure the prison staff will be aware of those and that they will treat you as well as they can."

The judge also activated six months of Benn’s previous suspended sentence.