A MENTALLY ill man who set light to his flat because he thought he was being tormented by his neighbours has been sent to a hospital in Dawlish.

Ricky North suffered delusions which included imagining he could see people walking past his third floor window before he piled up bedding and clothing and set light to it.

The blaze caused the partial evacuation of the block of Sanctuary Housing Association flats in Kingsland Court, Paignton on March 29 this year and left smoke and fire damage that cost up to £10,000 to repair.

The flat was so badly damaged that it could not be re-let for at least 14 weeks with the loss of more than £1,400 loss of rent.

North called the police after starting the fire and left the scene but was found at a nearby convenience store where he had alarmed staff by making threats and telling them he had just burned down his home.

He has a long history of schizophrenia and has been in Exeter Prison since his arrest but will be moved to the Langdon Hospital in Dawlish within the next three weeks if a bed becomes available.

North, aged 38, of Kingsland Court, Paignton, admitted arson being reckless whether life was endangered and was made the subject of a hospital order by Recorder Mr Eugene Egan at Exeter Crown Court.

The judge told him the offence would have merited a jail term of five years but for his mental illness.

He said: 'I make clear this order is not a punishment but is for your own welfare and that of the public.'

Mr Sam Wysocki, prosecuting, said the fire and rescue service were called to North’s top floor flat at 1.05 pm on March 29 and found a fire which was centred around a mattress, clothing and bedding next to the window.

North was arrested nearby after calling the police at 2.45 and admitted starting the fire saying he did so because he felt he was being victimised by neighbours.

Mr Paul Dentith, defending, said two consultant psychiatrists had bot diagnosed schizophrenia and recommended a hospital order.

He said North was plainly disturbed at the time and imagined he saw neighbours walking past his window, even though it was on the fourth floor.