Torquay arsonist jailed for trapping 'terrified' family in flat

Exeter Crown Court
Image caption Dale Hobbis, 51, was sentenced to four and a half years at Exeter Crown Court

An arsonist who trapped a "terrified" family in a burning flat has been jailed for four and a half years.

Dale Hobbis, 51, of Batson Gardens, Paignton, deliberately constructed a large fire behind a Torquay shop.

The blaze was so powerful it "partially melted" the front door of the victim's flat, trapping them inside.

Hobbis admitted arson and being reckless whether life was endangered and was sentenced by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

Sally and Chris Kelly, along with two of their four young children, were saved by firefighters after their fire escape had become blocked by the size of the fire.

Image copyright Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption The family could be heard "screaming for help" before being rescued

During sentencing Judge Johnson said that Hobbis' actions "posed a significant threat to the lives of the Kelly family", noting his "determined effort" to build the fire.

"They were terrified and could be heard screaming for help."

"There is no evidence this was a targeted attack but it was extremely reckless behaviour which created a very high risk of death to people including a very young child," he added.

Hobbis was caught on CCTV behind the Carters store on Union Street deliberately lighting discarded cardboard packaging, gathering more fuel and blowing onto the flames.

He was almost trapped too but managed to break through a metal gate.

Devon and Cornwall Police found him unconscious near the scene, "heavily" under the influence of a mixture of unprescribed Xanax and cocaine and smelling of the fumes.

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