Family hit by arson in Berkhamsted try to rebuild their lives

Crime
Crime

A YOUNG mum whose ex-boyfriend was sentenced to two years in prison for burning down her flat in a jealous rage is still trying to rebuild her life five months on.

Connie Breen has been having counselling and has been unable to find a job she can cope with since Mark Bonner torched her home in Berkhamsted in February.

The mum-of-one said that she couldn’t even face going to St Albans Crown Court on Friday when the 46-year-old was sentenced to a spell behind bars after pleading guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

She said: “I haven’t been able to work and have been going to counselling and I broke up with my new partner back in June – the main reason was because of how I was dealing with all this.

“I have good days and bad days. I’m just trying to find some work now, something I can cope with.

“As for Mark, I don’t feel anything at all. I’m not even angry any more, it would be wasted energy. I just hope I never see him again.”

St Albans Crown Court heard how Bonner, of Alperton in Middlesex, set alight the four storey block of flats in Pheasant Close while the people who lived there slept in their beds.

He had been in an 18-month relationship with Miss Breen but by February this year, the relationship was on its last legs and both were seeing other people.

Mr Bonner had stayed at the flat on the Thursday night before the fire but forgot to take his mobile phone with him when he left the next morning.

He later contacted Miss Breen, who by that time had gone away for the weekend with her four-year-old daughter Desiree, and it was arranged that he could go back to her flat to get his phone.

David Chrimes, prosecuting, said that it was while he was at the flat that he saw pictures on Miss Breen’s phone that suggested she was seeing someone else.

Mr Bonner then went out and bought petrol but didn’t use it when he started three separate seats of fire at the flat at about 6.30am on Sunday, February 19.

Mr Chrimes said: “Jealousy caused the matter to escalate in the way it did.”

Neighbour Jason Huxtable was enjoying an early morning cup of tea when he spotted smoke billowing out of Miss Breen’s ground floor flat.

Thinking Miss Breen and Desiree were in there, he made a number of brave attempts to get inside but was beaten back by the heat and smoke. He also called the emergency services.

Firefighters rescued a number of residents from their open windows.

Mr Chrimes said: “The fire caused £38,000 worth of damage to the flat, which was effectively gutted.”

The court was told Miss Breen is now receiving counselling and is on anti-depressants because of what happened.

Judge Martin Griffith, hearing the case, was told Bonner hadn’t tried to make excuses for his actions and was now remorseful for what he’d done.

Miss Breen didn’t go to the hearing and sentencing but told The Gazette afterwards that she was trying to piece her life back together.

She has since moved to Hemel Hempstead after losing her home and most of her possessions in the fire.

After hearing her story, a number of Gazette readers donated household goods to help her settle into her new property.

She said: “We are OK at the moment and the new place looks like home now.”