A ‘sensation-seeking’ arsonist who proclaimed himself ‘married to God’ has been jailed for nine years after setting fire to a hospital, a doctor’s house and a Chinese restaurant in York.
Anthony Adamson, 34, set fire to Foss Park Hospital, home to acute mental-health patients.
He then attacked a doctor’s house while the victim was sleeping and torched a Chinese restaurant – an attack caught on CCTV – because he blamed the Chinese for the Covid pandemic, York Crown Court heard.
The blazes occurred all on the same night, said prosecutor Patrick Palmer.
Following his arrest, Adamson told a probation officer that “society was controlled by the devil”, that he was “married to God” and “was not bound by society’s rules or laws, as only God could judge him”.
Adamson, from York but of no fixed address, was charged with three counts of arson and being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, and one count of simple arson. He denied the offences but was found guilty on all counts following a jury trial.
He was due in court yesterday (Wednesday) but refused to attend.
Judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York, said he could not allow Adamson’s refusal to attend to cause a delay in justice and that he would be sentenced in his absence, particularly given his obstreperousness during the trial.
On the night in question, Adamson was refused “re-entry” into Foss Park Hospital, a mental-health unit on Haxby Road, because he was drunk.
On this occasion, he had admitted himself after claiming he was unwell, but then, as in so many previous instances, was discharged shortly afterwards when it became clear that what he really wanted was a roof over his head.
Adamson then set fire to the front of the building.
An NHS safety officer said that had the fire taken hold in the lobby, patients with the most serious difficulties and all the mental-health teams from an entire suite of the two-storey hospital would have to have been evacuated, which would have been “tragic” for them.
Later that night, Adamson set fire to a wheelie bin or rubbish outside a doctor’s house – next to a gas pipe. The doctor was asleep at the time.
The court heard that had the gas pipe been sufficiently damaged, the consequences could have been “catastrophic” and fatal.
Adamson then set his sights on the Happy Valley Chinese restaurant in Goodramgate, where he started a fire which caused “extensive” damage to the interior.
Firefighters wearing breathing masks had to break in to “make sure there weren’t people upstairs, suffocating”.
The fire could have been much worse but, as our CCTV footage shows, two heroes tackled the flames with buckets of water.
They were later identified as Yorkshire shopfitters Andy Wright, 50, and Tony Everett, 30.
The prosecution said the attack was religiously aggravated because Adamson believed the “Chinese people (were) responsible for the pandemic”.
Adamson “stood by that in his evidence” during the trial.
The prosecution said that at the time of the fire, he would have had no idea whether there were people asleep in the living quarters above the restaurant, found Our Lady’s Row – the earliest row of houses surviving in York.
There were people living nearby in the row of overhanging properties, but mercifully not above the restaurant.
‘Serious risk to the public’
A probation report noted that Adamson had “strict religious beliefs”, was a serious risk to the public because he had “no regard to the potential outcome” of setting fire to property and was at “high risk” of committing further violent offences, “primarily within relationships”.
A doctor’s report stated that Adamson had an emotionally unstable, “dissociable” personality disorder, a “low tolerance to frustration”, a “low threshold for anger”, an “intense emotional response to rejection” and a “tendency for sensation-seeking”.
But judge Mr Morris said Adamson had been perfectly fit to plead and had “evinced some worrying tendencies” during the trial.
He added that Adamson didn’t suffer from “any mental illness that was treatable in a hospital and he has told (the Probation Service) that much of society is controlled or influenced by the devil”.
The judge said he had also noted Adamson’s boast that he was “not bound by society’s rules or laws” and that “only God can judge him”.
“I consider – in fact I am sure – that this defendant poses a serious risk of harm to the public,” added Mr Morris.
Adamson was jailed for nine years and told he must serve at least two-thirds of that sentence behind bars.
Mr Morris said it would be down to the Parole Board to decide when Adamson was fit to be released and that he could serve “considerably more than that”.
He said that upon his eventual release from jail, Adamson would have to serve an extended 12-year period on prison licence.