Free after 23 years in jail for curtain fire

A man who has spent 23 years in prison for setting fire to a pair of curtains in an empty village church was freed yesterday.

David Blagdon was 27 when he carried out the arson attack at St Laurence's church in South Hinksey, Oxfordshire, in 1978. Because he was given a discretionary life sentence, under which an inmate can be kept in prison for as long as they are considered a risk to the public, he has served a longer jail term than most murderers.

The 51-year-old was released yesterday morning from HMP Wayland, near Thetford in Norfolk. His freedom had been delayed for some years by the Parole Board because his behaviour in jail had been "difficult", a prisons source said.

Mr Blagdon committed the offence on the day of his foster mother's funeral and pleaded guilty to arson at Oxford Crown Court. The blaze caused £1,270 of damage. He has since said it was a "cry for help" and that he was at breaking point. The court was told he had a disturbed childhood and had appeared in court on several occasions accused of burglary, assault, theft and setting fire to rubbish bins.

The judge, Christopher Young, gave him the discretionary life sentence, but wrote to Merlyn Rees, who was Home Secretary, to say that, "Blagdon should not be in prison at all, but in a secure place where he could be offered and given treatment".

There have been at least two confidential medical reports since 1992 that concluded he posed no threat to society. He absconded from jail twice in the past six years in attempts to highlight his case.

He said in a newspaper interview: "I have lost nearly half my life. Sometimes I feel like giving up hope of ever getting out of here. Just to wake up in my own room with a view and be free to walk out of the house and maybe get on a bus. Most people take that for granted, but for me, it is a dream that has still to come true."

A Home Office spokesman said: "In directing Mr Blagdon's release the Parole Board stated that they were satisfied that it was no longer necessary for the protection of the public that he remain confined."

Suggested Topics
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments