A WOMAN has been found guilty of starting three fires in Sandford and Bradninch but cleared of trying to cause death or injury in the blazes.
Charlotte Godbeer was convicted of reckless arson after a five-day trial at Exeter Crown Court and will undergo a psychiatric assessment before she is sentenced in May.
She lit the fires at a neighbour’s and her own house in Bradninch in June and September 2021 and at her mother’s home in Sandford in August of the same year.
The first fire, at Passmore Road, Bradninch, was started by stuffing a wet suit and a mop through her neighbour’s catflap and setting light to them. The second started in a utility room and the third in the hallway of her own home.
The jury cleared her of intending to endanger life after hearing that she was in a confused mental state at the time and had made an attempt on her own life after the first blaze, but was rescued by police and firefighters.
She had been drinking before all three fires and was found semi-conscious and surrounded by cans of alcohol when firefighters smashed their way into her home to rescue her after the final fire.
Investigators found evidence of at least one fire at her home before the spate of arson attacks started, with soot on a mattress and large scorch marks on a table.
The fire service had been called to a fire in a bedroom window frame in May but logged it as an accident.
Godbeer denied starting any of the fires and said other people had access to all three locations. She said she had saved her neighbours, her mother and her mother’s pet cats and dogs from the first two blazes.
Godbeer, aged 36, formerly of Passmore Road, Bradninch, but now in custody, denied two counts of arson, intending to endanger life and three of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
She was cleared of the more serious charges of endangering life and convicted of the three counts of reckless arson.
Recorder Mr Mathew Turner adjourned sentence until at least May 15 to allow time for a full psychiatric report to be prepared.
He remanded Godbeer in custody and told her: “It is in your interests to co-operate in the preparation of the report.
During the trial the jury heard that Godbeer posed as a rescuer, raising the alarm and helping others get out of the buildings which she had set light to.
Godbeer was drunk when she set the fires and was abusive to police and firefighters who attended them.
Mr Peter Coombe, prosecuting, said the three fires were at her next door neighbour’s house in Bradninch on June 13, 2021; her mother’s house at Sunnyside, Sandford, near Crediton on August 23, 2021, and at her own home on September 27, 2021.
He said Godbeer woke the woman who lives next door some time after 11pm on June 13 to tell her that her house was burning and that she was tackling the fire with a saucepan of water. She went on to help her neighbour’s son escape.
She was abusive to her neighbour, police and firefighters, all of whom thought she was drunk. She was later found in the attic of her own home and naked from the waist down.
Godbeer went to live with her mother in Sandford but there was another, more serious fire which broke out in the early hours of August 23.
She woke her mother to say she thought someone was outside but they then heard the crackling sound of fire and the house filled with smoke.
Godbeer escorted her mother out and returned to the building to rescue pets and to tackle the blaze with a hosepipe before the fire brigade arrived and extinguished it.
The fire caused extensive damage and was found to have been started in the boiler room, although the boiler itself was ruled out as a potential cause.
The final fire happened the day she moved back into her home at Passmore Road, Bradninch, where her neighbour spotted a fire at around 11pm and called the emergency services.
Firefighters found the doors locked and bolted but broke in and rescued Godbeer from her living room. She blamed her neighbour for starting the fire.
Godbeer told the jury she did not have a fascination with fire and had not started any of the three blazes. She said she had seen the glow from the first while on the telephone to a friend and had rushed to alert her neighbour.
She said she had no idea how any of the fires started but her mother told the jury there had been problems with the boiler at her home before the incident, which started close to it.
Godbeer said she was sleeping downstairs at the time of the final fire and the first she knew about it was when she was woken by firefighters.