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A man who set fire to a pub in Buckhurst Hill, while people were living in the flat above, has been sentenced.
It happened at the Three Colts pub in Princes Road, Buckhurst Hill at around 4.50pm on Saturday February 6.
Police received a call from a member of the public who said they had witnessed a man – later identified as 48 year-old Spiros Schultz – acting suspiciously near to a smashed window pane.
The witness later told officers he saw Schultz then strike a match and put it through the smashed window and a fire start inside the pub immediately.
He also told officers he then saw a black fuel cannister on the floor where Schultz had been standing.
Schultz then walked off along Princes Road towards Buckhurst Hill tube station.
The witness followed him, taking photos of him, and called 999.
Meanwhile, inside the pub, a woman living in the flat above it reported hearing a bang and then fire alarms going off.
When she opened her front door she was met with smoke which got thicker as she made her way downstairs to try to get out.
She was trapped for between five and 10 minutes in the rear outside of the pub with smoke blowing in the wind toward her before she got to safety.
The train Schultz had made off on terminated in Loughton. During searches there, Schultz was recognised by one of our officers and arrested.
They found a lighter and matches on him.
Schultz, of Eleven Acres Rise, Loughton, was later charged and at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on Monday March 8 admitted arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered and breach of a restraining order.
At Chelmsford Crown Court on Thursday October 28 he was sentenced to five years and four months in prison.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Kelly Gould said: “Spiros Schultz set fire to the pub in a brazen, pre-meditated attack.
“He paid no regard for the safety or welfare of anyone in the flat above it and his actions could have had tragic consequences.
“I want to praise the actions of the member of the public who witnessed what happened.
“They’re quick thinking may well have saved the life of the woman in the flat.
“Quick work from our officers meant Schultz was swiftly arrested and due to the evidence against him he had no choice but to admit his guilt.
“I hope this sentence will provide the victim with justice.”