Pair facing prison for arson attempt

TWO women are facing lengthy prison sentences – one for a campaign of harassment against asylum- seekers and the other for trying to set fire to a house where immigrants lived.

Susan Oliver, 33, and her friend Natasha Shields, 18, sobbed in the dock at Teesside Crown Court yesterday when they were told of their likely fate by Judge Peter Bowers.

The women were on trial for arson with intent to endanger the life of Zanko Hamamin by deliberately setting fire to the house he shared with his family, in Stockton, last summer.

After a half-day of evidence was followed by legal discussions, new charges were put to the pair, and they wiped away tears with tissues as each of them pleaded guilty.

Oliver admitted racial harassment between May 1 and July 26 last year, while Shields admitted arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered on July 26.

When the trial began on Tuesday, Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, told the jury: “This was an out-and-out racial attack, motivated by a hatred of asylum-seekers,”

Mr Newcombe described Oliver – who lived two doors away from the targeted house in Camden Street at the time – as the prime mover, the one who bore the greatest grudge.

He said Shields jumped on Miss Oliver’s bandwagon after they had both been drinking, and told the jury of seven men and five women: “Good sense left them.”

The court heard that burning cloth was pushed through the letterbox of the terraced house, and somebody shouted: “Hope your home burns down, curry muncher.”

A video captured on Mr Hamamin’s mobile phone showed the burning letterbox, a fire alarm sounding and a female voice screaming from outside: “Your house is on fire.”

Oliver, now of Georgiana Close, Thornaby, near Stockton, and Shields, of Mowbeck Way, Ormesby Way, Middlesbrough, both denied arson with intent to endanger life.

Formal not guilty verdicts on those charges are expected to be entered when each of them returns to court in the coming months to be sentenced for what they have admitted.

Oliver wept as she was remanded in custody until she is dealt with on February 12 as Judge Bowers told her: “That might be the only mitigation you have, quite frankly.”

Shields, who is 36 weeks’ pregnant, was given bail to a new address in Annan, Dumfriesshire, but was warned: “You will get a substantial sentence for setting fire to this lad’s house.”

Judge Bowers told the tearful mother-to-be: “It would be unfortunate if your child was born in custody.

I will give you bail, until April 16, which you don’t deserve.”

Mr Hamamin told the jury through an interpreter he had lived in Camden Street for three months and had been abused constantly by a group who sat and drank outside.

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