A man who put the lives of residents in a block of flats in danger by starting a fire has been jailed.
Patrick MacNamara set alight a piece of fabric and put it through the letterbox of an unoccupied flat in the early morning before the blaze took hold and destroyed the roof.
The 47-year-old was originally charged with attempting to murder residents at the block in Edinburgh’s Bailie Terrace on July 11 in 2021, which he denied.
But the Crown accepted his guilty plea to a reduced charge of wilfully starting the fire to the danger of their lives during a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.
Three flats in the block were damaged by the blaze and smoke spread throughout the building.
One resident told the court that in the early morning he heard noises coming from an upstairs flat which he thought was strange as he believed it to be unoccupied at the time.
He then smelt burning and joined up with another resident to bang doors to alert others.
He was one of several who made phone calls to the emergency services to report the fire.
“I was standing out on the street,” the resident said.
“I could see it was getting worse. There was more smoke. I could see the flames starting on the roof.”
The court heard that because of the scale of the blaze, 11 fire appliances were called out to attend the intense fire.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service advised the building, which was made up of local authority and private flats, was unsafe and confirmed the fire was set wilfully.
The presence of an accelerant was noted and a piece of fabric found in the letterbox of the flat where the fire began. A search of MacNamara’s vehicle found a receipt for the purchase of petrol.
The court heard that MacNamara’s brother resided in the block of flats targeted in the fire but he had gone on a visit to Wales.
The cost of rebuilding the damaged block was estimated at more that £500,000.
Advocate depute Paul Mullen said MacNamara had previous convictions mostly related to road traffic offences and crimes of dishonesty.
But the prosecutor said he also has a conviction from an Irish court for arson for which he was jailed for three years.
Defence counsel Herbert Kerrigan KC said he was seeking to obtain medical information about him and a psychological report.
He asked that MacNamara be allowed to remain at liberty ahead of a sentencing hearing later this year.
The judge, Lord Beckett, told MacNamara: “Until now you have enjoyed the presumption of innocence, but you have now plead guilty to what is plainly a serious crime.”
He told him he was not prepared to continue bail and remanded him in custody for the preparation of reports.