Southport pensioner attacked neighbour with saw after being confronted about sofa on fire in his garden

Southport pensioner attacked neighbour with saw after being confronted about sofa on fire in his garden

A pensioner attacked his neighbor with a carpenter’s saw because he was afraid of socializing during Covid, a court heard.

John Mitchell, 67, burned a sofa in his back garden when his neighbor came out to see what was going on. Preston Crown Court heard that at 10pm on 25 March 2020, two days after the start of the first lockdown, Karl Jones saw seven meter flames rising over the boundary fence between his home in New Lane, Southport and that of his neighbour.

He went to investigate and found Mitchell burning furniture near the fence. Mr Jones asked his neighbor “what the hell was going on” but Mitchell, holding a saw, lunged at his neighbor and hit him at least eight times.

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Mr Jones sustained injuries to his shoulder, side and left hand, which he put up defending himself from the attack. Accusingly, Colette Renton said: “Mr. Jones was so stunned at being hit that at first he thought he had been hit with the blunt end, but soon realized he was in pain.”

Mr Jones’ partner heard him yell and heard a man’s voice yell: ‘I know where you live. She called the police and fire department when her partner returned to the house with marks on his body.

Preston Crown Court heard an ambulance was not called due to the Covid crisis and there was a delay in Mitchell’s arrest as he was shielded due to his clinical vulnerability.

Defending Anna Chestnutt said Mitchell was 65 at the time of the attack and had a number of health conditions, including prediabetes and a heart condition. “With that in mind, he was extremely concerned about interacting with other people during the lockdown,” she said.

“He feels very strongly that his quickness to anger was very much influenced by his fear at the time.” Ms Chestnutt said Mitchell acted atypically and was already holding the saw when Mr Jones approached him.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH) and appeared at Preston Crown Court to be convicted. Ms Chestnutt added that he cares for his partner, who has an autoimmune disease, and is responsible for taking her children to school when she is unable to do so.

Court clerk Imran Shafi KC, who sent sentences, said: “You are a retired man going about his business, which makes this offense all the more startling, all the more bizarre and all the more ill-considered given the stage of your life on March 22. On March 30, 2020, shortly after lockdown was announced, at 10pm, you were about to set fire to a sectional sofa causing flames seven meters high.

“That prompted – not surprisingly – your neighbor to go and investigate what was going on. Making a fire of this type at this time of night is probably not the most advisable.

“Mr. Jones, when he got there, asked what the hell was going on. Perhaps he could have chosen his language more carefully, but the mood was easily understood.

“They were holding a carpenter’s saw. It’s quite surprising that you would be cutting down trees at 10pm, but I accept that there is no evidence that you were armed. Whatever happened then, you accept by your plea that you acted illegally and unlawfully in attacking Mr Jones with the saw no fewer than eight times.

The judge said the offense was so serious that it exceeded the incarceration threshold, but took Mitchell’s personal health issues and family circumstances into account when reaching the verdict. He imposed a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and imposed a three-month 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on Mitchell.

He also issued a retraining order prohibiting him from approaching the neighbor or the neighbor’s property for five years.

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