Crazed out of her mind…
‘to get back at her enstanged partner, mother sets fire to her own house with her toddler inside …then puts it on him’
Gemma Keefe, 29, phoned police to say her ex-partner targeted her home
She even phoned local paper to report the arson in Fareham, Hampshire
Firefighters had to rescue her son and her friend from inside the property
Keefe held for arson when other suspects had alibis – she was spared jail
An arsonist mother set fire to her own home while her three-year-old son was inside before blaming her estranged husband.
Gemma Keefe, 29, phoned police and said that her husband or his new partner had targeted her property in Fareham, Hampshire. She even phoned the local newspaper to report that an arsonist had set fire to the storage area inside her home.
But when detectives found her estranged husband and his partner had alibis, Keefe was arrested on suspicion of arson. She has now been spared jail after admitting one charge of arson so she can continue to receive treatment for mental health problems. Handing her a 12-month community order, Judge Roger Hetherington said it was a ‘very serious matter’.
He added: ‘Of course one of the serious factors here is that your son, then aged three, was living with you.’
Portsmouth Crown Court was told how Keefe had been with two friends, Coral Gray and Michael Craddock, and her three-year-old son Ryan. That morning, she phoned police to report that someone had cut her wires on her smoke alarm. She then told her friends: ‘Someone is going to burn my house down’.
Prosecutor Richard Cherrill said Keefe then went to a neighbour and asked him to call 999. The neighbour went to her house, smelled smoke but could not see any fire in the cupboard.Keefe then went to her other neighbour, who called the fire service.When the fire engines arrived, Keefe’s young son was taken out of the house and her friend Coral was treated for smoke inhalation.Mr Cherrill said: ‘Keefe was spoken to by the police and she claimed either her estranged husband or his new partner had been responsible.
‘Their whereabouts at the relevant time were checked and they clearly had alibis making it clear they were not responsible.’
Daniel Reilly, defending, said Keefe had suffered mental health problems since the breakdown of her marriage in June 2014 but that she had since improved.
He said: ‘Those witnesses who know her well, and many over a significant period of time, describe her as someone who is an ordinarily kind, caring, considerate person. ‘She is described as a devoted mother, that’s something that comes from many, if not all.’ Keefe was handed a 12-month community order with 12 months of supervision after admitting one charge of arson.
Speaking after court, Chantelle Lewis, 26, who was accused by Keefe of starting the fire, said she was investigated by police, who also contacted friends and family, for a month.
The care home worker, also from Fareham, said: ‘It was heartbreaking being accused of something, especially when there’s a three-year-old in the house
‘I’ve had nightmares. I’ve had a miscarriage because of the stress, I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.
‘It’s all “feel sorry for Gemma” but where’s the sympathy for us? I’ve had people say things about me when I’ve been walking through Fareham, I’ve had
‘We’re the ones who have been dragged through hell and she’s the one who did it. I wanted to see justice but there hasn’t been any. I want justice for me and my family.’
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