A WILTSHIRE man tried to set fire to his flat as he believed there was an eight-strong gang of machete-wielding men in his attic, a court heard.

Dylan Rose, 32, was yesterday given a hospital order after a Swindon judge heard he had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia when he set fire to his flat in Trowbridge on New Year’s Eve last year.

Neighbours – including mothers with their babies – were forced to flee their homes after Rose first attempted to use bleach and lighter fluid to the set fire to his front door then turned an aerosol and flame on his net curtains.

Sentencing Rose to a section 37 hospital order, Judge Jason Taylor QC said: “It must have been terrifying at the time and even more so looking back to think that a mother has to grab her child while in his nappy to leave the building.”

The scene that police found in Trowbridge in December 2019 Picture: CPS WESSEX

Earlier, prosecutor Hannah Squire told Swindon Crown Court that police had been called out twice to Rose’s flat off St Thomas’ Road on the night of December 30 to 31.

On one occasion, Rose had been seen walking around with a screwdriver banging on doors and windows. Police took the screwdriver from him and checked his attic after he said there were men up there but could find no sign of the supposed gang.

After 5.30am on December 31, Rose shouted a warning that he was going to start a fire. His neighbour looked through the spy hole in her front door and saw Rose trying to set a fire outside the front door of his first floor flat. He was said to have used bleach and lighter fluid, which failed to light.

Ms Squire said: “He went inside and set fire to the net curtains which, understandably, would have easily taken and they did. The fire grew quickly.”

When 999 crews arrived they could see smoke billowing from the house. Police caught up with him outside the flats. He was carrying his birth certificate and other items.

Interviewed by police, he said he thought there was a local gang of eight people inside his attic. He said he knew the people, who he claimed were armed with machetes, were there as he could smell their body odour. Asked why he hadn’t just left his flat, he told officers he had nowhere else to go.

The fire caused approximately £20,000-worth of damage to the property. In a victim impact statement, one of his neighbours said she had flashbacks to the incident and was fearful of him moving back into the flat.

Firefighters and police at the scene of the blaze Picture: CPS WESSEX

Rose, formerly of St Thomas’ Passage, Trowbridge, but appearing in court via video link from Bullingdon prison, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

It was said he had not been taking his medication at the time of the incident, but his mental health had improved since being held on remand.

He had spent 11 months on remand – the equivalent of an almost two year jail sentence.

Under the terms of his hospital order, Rose will be cared for at a secure facility in Bristol. He will stay there until doctors consider he is well enough to leave hospital.

Judge Taylor asked the prosecutor to pass on comments to the council that Rose should not be released from hospital to the same flat in St Thomas’ Passage.

He said: “It would be wholly inappropriate for Mr Rose whenever he is released to return there and I would like the people living in those flats to be given that reassurance.

“They will always be fearful. He should be released but released elsewhere.”

Rose was represented at the hearing by Tony Bignall.