A WOMAN who started a fire on the 17th floor of a town centre tower block while hallucinating has been jailed for more than three years.

Sharon Fry told police she threw methylated spirits about and it caught light because the people she thought were in her flat in the David Murray John tower were smoking.

The 54-year-old appeared at Swindon Crown Court yesterday where she was given 40 months in custody for the incident, which happened at 8am on July 9 last year.

The hearing was delayed so a psychiatric report could be compiled on her, which recommended she engage with the community mental health team.

The fire brigade was alerted by the automatic alarms in the tower block and by calls from the public.

Firefighters found the door to her flat open. When they went inside they were confronted by a serious fire and the internal doors were closed, with Fry, of East Street, sheltering from the smoke on her balcony.

Prosecutor Tessa Hingston told the court Fry had been suffering hallucinations when she started the blaze, which had cost Swindon Council £29,000 in repairs.

In mitigation, Rob Ross said his client had been suffering from a reaction to alcohol, something she had been struggling with, along with disability.

He said: “We have heard about this offence itself and she is a lady of good character – the references from her friends attest to that.

“She has laboured under a number of disabilities and problems both physically and mentally for a very long time.

“To be frank, probably in an attempt to deal with it, she has taken to drink.

“While this incident was probably a culmination of numerous things, she seemed to suffer some sort of alcoholic hallucinations.

“She appears to have been, in many ways, not a criminal but a very vulnerable lady who has ended up committing this offence.”

In jailing her judge Douglas Field said: “The medical diagnosis is you were suffering from recurrent mental behavioural disorder due to alcohol but your explanation to police was bizarre.

“This offence is so serious that it must be immediate custody save for the most exceptional circumstances.

“You are a lady of good character but having read all the material this case is not a most exceptional case.”