A MAN who set fire to the block of flats where his retired father lives has been jailed for more than six years.

Residents in the three-storey city centre building saw and heard Simon James Ensbury, aged 30, shouting and banging around their homes at about midnight on July 31, said Laura Addy, prosecuting.

“All of a sudden, it went quiet for a few minutes and they heard nothing more,” said Ms Addy.

“Then they could smell burning and, opening their door, they were hit by a face full of smoke.”

The smoke filled the central stairwell, blocking the residents’ escape route and though Ensbury phoned the fire brigade, his call was so muddled control room staff thought it was a hoax and didn’t send a crew until one of the residents also dialled 999, she said.

“It could have been a dreadful tragedy,” said the Honorary Recorder of York, Judge Paul Batty QC.

Ensbury, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He was jailed for six years and three months at York Crown Court.

For him, Richard Minion said Ensbury couldn’t explain why he had started the fire. He had been drinking with his father, had smoked cannabis and may have had an hallucination.

He had been on medication for anxiety and depression, having recently been made homeless and lost his job, he added.

Ms Addy said Ensbury had been staying “on and off” with his father with whom he had spent much of the day. They had split up after drinking and arguing in a club.

Ensbury had initially gone to the block of flats at 10.30pm. On a second visit later that evening, he had started the fire by pushing burning leaves through a ground floor letterbox.

He had left a message on his father’s phone that “someone had set fire to his door” and had still been in the vicinity when police and fire officers arrived at about half past midnight, the court heard.

The damage at the local authority-owned flats had cost £2,000 to repair.

Mr Minion said Ensbury had not intended to kill anyone and no-one was injured in the fire. He had been frustrated that he couldn’t get into the flats to speak to his father.