A man who set fire to an Essex pub, while people were living in the flat above, has been sentenced.
Earlier this year, on February 6, emergency services received a call from a member of the public who said they had witnessed a man acting ‘suspiciously’ near a smashed windowpane at the Three Colts pub in Princes Road, Buckhurst Hill.
The witness who phoned police later told officers he saw the man – later identified as 49-year-old Spiros Schultz – strike a match and put it through the smashed window and a fire start inside the pub immediately.
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He also told officers he then saw a black fuel canister on the floor where Schultz had been standing.
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Schultz then reportedly walked off along Princes Road towards Buckhurst Hill tube station.
The witness followed him, taking photos of him, and called 999 at around 4.50pm on Saturday, February 6.
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 a cloud of 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 winds toward her before she got to safety.
The train Schultz had made off on terminated in Loughton. During searches there, Schultz was recognised by a police officer and was arrested.
The officer 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.
This restraining order had prohibited him from going to The Three Colts and contacting the landlord’s wife.
At Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday (Thursday, October 28) he was sentenced to five years and four months in prison.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, a resident living upstairs at the premises described feeling “lucky” to have escaped the fire, with the incident leaving her “shaken up and scared”.
The fire brigade arrived at the scene and extinguished the fire, but Adam Brooks, the owner of The Three Colts, said the fire had caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.
The pub landlord was aware of Schulz, having reportedly banned the 49-year-old several years prior to the incident.
PC Ward, of Essex Police, had found a Facebook account for Schulz where he had made two posts directed at the owners of the pub.
On August 17, 2020, Schulz had said: “Three Colts Buckhurst Hill no fire escape at all. No fire equipment.”
And on August 25, 2020, Schulz directed a post at the landlord’s mother, saying: “Barbara no fire escape at all no fire equipment.”
As well as sentencing Schulz to five years and four months in prison, Judge William Clegg QC reinstated the restraining order indefinitely and order the 49-year-old to pay a victim surcharge.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Kelly Gould said: “Spiros Schultz set fire to the pub in a brazen, pre-meditated attack.
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“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.”
Following the sentencing, the Three Colts Pub issued a statement on their social media page, calling Schultz a ‘coward’ after the pub lost an estimated quarter of a million pounds worth of damage.
They wrote on Twitter: “Spiros Schultz was today sentenced to 5 years and 4 months for the arson attack at The Colts.
“This event caused 1/4 million pounds worth of damage, seriously endangered the life of the resident above and caused deep stress and anxiety to myself, family and staff. Coward of a man”.
Speaking to EssexLive following the sentencing, Adam Brooks – the landlord of The Three Colts – said he was “relieved”, but believed Schulz should have been sentenced for longer.
“Let’s not beat around the bush here, Spiros Schulz is a coward and his cowardly act could have cost the life of a woman living above the pub”, Mr Brooks said.
“For years he has waged campaigns of abuse and threats towards neighbours, local groups of kids and now the pub.
“He has shouted and threatened my staff many times over the last few years, so today will come as some relief to many of them.
“We are a hub for the community and the last 18 months had been tough enough even without the fire.
“I’m happy that the judge has made the decision to extend the restraining order indefinitely and therefore keep this dangerous man away from my business, my family and my staff members.
“I hope Mr Schulz reflects on his cowardly behaviour over the next few years in prison and the authorities make sure he isn’t capable of such acts again.”
The Three Colts is now fully restored and trading, but Mr Brooks said the incident could have been a lot worse.
“If he had done this at night, the lady could’ve died and I would’ve lost my whole business”, Mr Brooks said.
“I hope a few lessons might be learnt by authorities that interventions need to be made earlier.
“It’s a bad event that could’ve been a tragic event.
“Schulz is lucky to have got the sentencing he got.”
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