Bilborough victims of 'witchcraft' arsonist speaks of impact
VICTIMS of a series of arson attacks have spoken of the lasting impact the crimes have had on their lives.
Four houses and a car were damaged when Clive Howsin threw homemade petrol bombs at homes in Strelley Road, Bilborough, and Beechdale Road, Beechdale.
Howsin, a paranoid schizophrenic who believed people in the area were involved in witchcraft, was yesterday given a hospital restriction order in a medium secure unit.
Nottingham Crown Court heard that Howsin, who had a family connection to the area, was caught after starting the fires and had said he wanted to "burn them all out".
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Prosecutor Jon Fountain explained: "He [Howsin] said, 'for a while now some of my neighbours have been antagonising me.
"They bang on my walls and hex me. It's witchcraft.
"They all sit around hexing me. I've stopped myself from doing it, but tonight I thought, 'I've had enough'."
Howsin started the fires in the early hours of May 18 last year.
Grandmother-of-14 and great- grandmother-of-one Lynn Burns lives in Strelley Road, Bilborough, and owns one of the houses that Howsin threw a petrol bomb at.
She slept through the attack and was woken by police knocking at her door in the early hours.
After Howsin's court case and the emergence of his condition, she said she was doubtful he was ill and felt it was an excuse he was using to dodge prison.
"Why did he pick on four complete strangers?" she asked.
"I didn't know him, and I don't even know the other people that were targeted.
"We are not into witchcraft. I'm a born-again Christian. I take very strongly to that allegation from him."
She said the fire at her door began just metres away from her 30-foot camper van, which contained two full gas cylinders.
The 51-year-old sold it back to the dealer immediately after the fire at a loss.
"It made me realise an attack like that could have killed people randomly," she said.
"That's why I sold it. I couldn't live with myself knowing that could have happened – that I could have put people's lives at risk because of what he did.
"The motor home would have gone off like a bomb. The gas cylinders are huge and there was a full tank of diesel in the van.
"We sold it back to the dealer at a great financial loss. We had bought it for £30,000 and sold it for £6,000."
A mum-of-two who lives at the Beechdale Road house attacked by Howsin, said she, her 42-year-old husband and their two children were still coming to terms with the incident.
The 39-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said: "I try not to talk about it but my son does quite a lot. He does ask, 'is he going to come back?', and 'will it happen again?', but I've told him the police say it was a totally random attack.
"My son still has nightmares sometimes and, on Bonfire Night, he was really edgy due to the bangs and the smoke. He said it 'smelt like when the man came'."
She added that the family had sold their car, despite it having been repaired, because she "didn't want to drive it any more due to the memories".
Of the incident, she said: "I remembered hearing a loud bang as if the front door was being kicked through. I was shouting 'what have we done?' and I saw him [Howsin] standing outside looking at the window."
Another of the Strelley Road victims told the Post: "I'm not sleeping. I'm looking over my shoulder all the time.
"I've had nightmares. I'm scared someone is going to do it again. It's horrible.
"I just don't know how long it will be before we will get over it. It's just a matter of waiting."
Howsin, 29, of Willoughby Court, Lenton, pleaded guilty to four charges of reckless arson.
Judge Philip Head readmitted him to Arnold Lodge medium secure unit, in Leicester, under Sections 37 and 41 of the Mental Health Act.