The issue of pyromania – compulsive fire lighting – was raised when a 31-year-old admitted setting the fire that destroyed the Image Vault business premises in Ferry Road two weeks ago.
Kyle Stuart John Tappin, of Woolston, has told the police that after lighting the fire early on November 26 he hid in the shadows across the road to watch while the fire took hold.
Tappin admitted the arson charge in an appearance by video-link in the Christchurch District Court today, when Judge Brian Callaghan remanded him in custody for a Crown sentencing on February 24.
Defence counsel Andrew McKenzie asked for a psychiatric report under the Criminal Procedures (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act to be prepared ahead of the sentencing.
He said: “In the video interview (with the police) there were a number of issues that were of concern – underlying issues that led to this behaviour, which may have been ongoing.”
“Pyromania?” Judge Callaghan asked.
“Possibly that kind of issue,” said Mr McKenzie.
Judge Callaghan did not order the psychiatric report, but noted that Tappin was being seen by a psychiatric clinician later today and if that disclosed any issues, the report could be then be sought again.
He also asked for a pre-sentence report and referred the case for a restorative justice meeting.
Mr McKenzie said Tappin was keen for the meeting to take place so that he could tell the business owners that the fire lighting was “nothing personal”.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Fiona Roberts said that at 3.30am on November 26, Tappin found two recycling wheelie bins in the car park of Image Vault.
He took a piece of paper out of one of the bins, folded it repeatedly, put it between the lid and the bin and then lit it with his cigarette lighter. It burned briefly but then went out.
Tappin took two more pieces of paper out of a bin and folded them repeatedly before placing one between the lid and the bin.
When it didn’t light immediately, Tappin says he became angry and sat on the front steps of the building. He noticed he could pull the front doors open enough to fit his hand inside.
He then lit the third piece of paper and held the door open enough to push it inside and up against the curtain covering the doorway.
“He then walked across the road and waited in the shadows and watched the fire take hold,” said Sergeant Roberts. While watching, he saw that the second wheelie bin he lit had also taken hold. He then walked off.
The premises were extensively damage and the business lost everything.
Tappin told the police he did not know what triggered him to light the fire, but he became angry when the bins would not light.