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Serial arsonist who torched city hospital given life sentence

Thomas Ashcroft started fires in the Royal Stoke University Hospital and a Staffordshire University building.

A serial arsonist has been jailed for life after setting fire to a hospital in Stoke-on-Trent and starting a blaze at Southampton’s SeaCity Museum.

Thomas Ashcroft pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered at the Royal Stoke and at a Staffordshire University building which was targeted on the same day.

He had set fire to toilet paper in a disabled toilet at the university and plastic bagged items in metal cages in the basement of the hospital, Staffordshire Police said.

The 40-year-old who was jailed for eight years at Canterbury Crown Court in 2013 for similar offences – further admitted a charge of reckless arson in relation to a fire at the SeaCity Museum on June 6.

He also admitted burglary of the museum on the same date by breaking into the till in the cafe.

On Friday at Stafford Crown Court, Ashcroft, of Musgrave Crescent in Sheffield, was jailed for a minimum of seven years and 182 days, the force said.

His tactic of setting light to buildings is both reckless and dangerous and could have resulted in the deaths of many people Detective Inspector Dan Ison, Staffordshire Police

Detective Inspector Dan Ison said: “Ashcroft has a track record as a serial commercial burglar and has adopted the practice of setting off the fire alarm to encourage the evacuation of the building.

“Once empty he then attempts to steal money from within the building. Good work by our officers has stopped him from doing this again.

“His tactic of setting light to buildings is both reckless and dangerous and could have resulted in the deaths of many people.

“We welcome this sentence and hope it deters others from thinking they can get away with such illegal and hazardous acts.”

Rob Barber, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s deputy chief fire officer, said: “The hospital fire put many people’s lives at risk and it took considerable time and resources to bring it to a safe conclusion.

“Our fire investigator worked closely with colleagues from Staffordshire Police to support them during their investigation.

“As a service we take arson extremely seriously and we are pleased that justice has been brought against the man responsible for these reckless incidents.”

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