A homeless woman has been jailed after being captured on a video doorbell starting a series of blazes which forced people to flee for their lives.
Shirley Kane, formerly of Lochee, was locked up for 34 months after she endangered lives by setting fires at two buildings on the same day.
Perth Sheriff Court was told one resident was trapped in her top-floor flat and had to be given oxygen as she waited to be rescued by firefighters.
The woman – who had to break off her university class on Zoom – was given breathing help as she hung out of the window after firefighters extended a ladder up to the top-floor window at North Methven Street in Perth.
Other residents, including a young family with children, fled as the communal close filled with thick black smoke after Kane deliberately torched items in a cupboard.
Later the same day, Kane set a series of fires at another block of flats little over 100 yards away.
Analysis revealed fires were intentional
Her presence in the communal garden was picked up by the ring bell and an alert was sent.
The flat owner, who was staying at a holiday home in Fife, saw an image of Kane lurking outside the property and she immediately returned to Perth because she was so concerned.
When she arrived, several fires had been started at wheelie bins and boxes and other residents of the six-flat block were in the midst of escaping from the building.
Kane, who was still hanging around the area when police and firefighters were in attendance, told one officer she had discarded a cigarette and hoped she wasn’t to blame.
However, expert analysis showed the fires had been set intentionally.
Kane, 38, formerly of Elders Court, Dundee, admitted posing a danger to the lives of occupants of a number of flats on North Methven Street, Perth, on September 28 last year.
She also admitted torching a cupboard in the communal close and destroying it and its contents, and causing extensive smoke damage.
Kane further admitted endangering lives at 208 High Street by setting fire to a cardboard box and three wheelie bins, destroying them, and causing smoke and flame damage to a floor and carpet.
Fiscal depute Gail Russell said the first incident happened at a four-storey block of flats above shops in the city centre at around 11am.
‘Smoke billowing out’
She said: “A student in another flat was on a Zoom call to university when she heard a smoke alarm sounding.
“She opened the door and could barely see anything for the black smoke in the stairwell.
“She closed the door and called 999. A witness at a neighbouring property observed smoke and ash coming from the building. At the front they observed smoke billowing out.
“They observed the female hanging out the window in a state of distress as she was trapped inside.
“Firefighters used a ladder to access the window where she was provided with oxygen until the fire was under control.”
Mrs Russell told the court there was severe heat and smoke damage and part of the building’s roof caved in.
CCTV footage from a nearby shop showed a figure leaving the flats shortly before the fire was discovered.
Kane, who was living on the streets after quitting her Dundee home, struck again less than nine hours later when she set fires outside a building on High Street.
“One householder had a Ring doorbell, which provides live CCTV footage when the doorbell is activated,” said Mrs Russell.
“At 7.40 pm the witness was notified of movement at her front door.
“She viewed the footage and noted someone near. Fearing something was amiss, she decided to attend to investigate.”
As the woman arrived, several residents had become aware of thick black smoke belching into the building and they had started to evacuate their homes.
‘I didn’t do anything’
Kane was still watching on from nearby, and told one of the shocked householders: “I didn’t do anything.”
The woman with the Ring device showed screenshots to police and Kane was identified.
She told an officer: “I was there and flung a fag in the bin – dinnae tell me I set it on fire?”
She was noted to have “obvious singe marks” to her fringe.
Analysis showed fires had been set in four places including the close entrance, and had not been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette.
Solicitor Theo Finlay said Kane had become isolated after the death of her husband five years ago and her situation may have been exacerbated by lockdown.
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