Landlord jailed for nine years after killing friend in pub blaze

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A landlord has been jailed for nine years after he started a devastating fire which claimed the life of his best friend.

Bradford Crown Court was this morning (Friday) shown CCTV footage from inside the Wellington Inn in Pye Nest, Halifax, which captured the moment when drunken Shaun McBride poured petrol around the lounge area of his own premises and set fire to it with a lighted magazine.

The petrol ignited immediately and within 20 seconds the ground floor of the pub was engulfed in thick smoke.

The court heard that McBride’s long-term relationship with Selina Firth had broken down and before starting the early hours blaze in June the depressed 31-year-old had been on a drinking binge which included up to 20 pints of beer and a quantity of gin.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sharp said after his pub crawl around Halifax McBride had continued drinking at his own pub with his regular drinking partner 50-year-old Andrew McGow.

As the blaze took hold McBride tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but he eventually escaped through the front door only to realise that Mr McGow, who was also drunk that night, was still inside the pub screaming for help.

Mr Sharp said the flames were so intense that neither McBride nor a passing motorist, who had called 999, could not get into the pub.

“After a while the shouts ceased,” said Mr Sharp.

“Mr McGow had been overcome by the smoke and had collapsed to the floor.”

Four firefighters using breathing apparatus managed to stretcher Mr McGow out of the pub, but he had already suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body and he died the next day at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield.

Mr Sharp also showed the court a video recording of the aftermath of the fire which had caused an estimated £100,000 damage to the uninsured premises.

Although McBride accepted that the fire had been his fault he also claimed initially that the petrol had been set alight accidentally.

But the police inquiry revealed he had made threats earlier that night to start a blaze at the pub which his partner had invested money in.

The CCTV footage showed McBride making initial attempts to start a fire in the lounge area before he eventually went outside and returned with a full can of petrol.

McBride, of Rochdale Road, Halifax, pleaded guilty today to a charge of manslaughter, but his barrister Michelle Colborne QC said it was not a case where her client had intended harm to anyone particularly his close friend.

She said McBride saw Mr McGow as an “older brother” as well as a best friend.

“This is not a case where the defendant intended to harm or endanger the lives of anyone,” she submitted.

“He never envisaged that anyone would come to harm.

“The deceased was the closest friend that this defendant had and he viewed him as an older brother. The family, and the defendant, are devastated by his loss.”

Miss Colborne said McBride was “in a mess” at the time and his flawed thinking in drink led to consequences which went far beyond anything he expected.

But jailing McBride Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said he had been caught up in his own personal grief and upset and had never given any thought to Mr McGow.

The judge noted that McBride himself had said that the deceased had made repeated attempts to stop him and Mr McGow had been caught up in his argument with his partner.

“I have some difficulty in understanding, in truth, your motivation,” the judge told McBride.

“I suspect you are just somebody who was prepared to go to extreme lengths to prove something to that lady who had stood by you.”

The judge set the starting point for McBride’s prison sentence at 14 years, but his guilty plea to the manslaughter meant he was entitled to credit which reduced the jail term to nine years.