A YOUNG mum set fire to cardboard box while her toddler and mother were in the house.

Savannah Oldacre, 22, was said to have been struggling with her mental health when she set the blaze fire saw two appliances called to her family’s Walcot home last year.

The mum-of-one had been diagnosed with autism. In 1999, when she was just three years old, her father murdered her baby brother, Jamie, in front of her. Paul Oldacre was jailed for life in 2000.

Prosecutor Lucie Stoker told Swindon Crown Court that Oldacre had been at home in Frobisher Drive on November 7 last year with her mum and young daughter.

Earlier that day, a fire in the gas boiler had resulted in Oldacre, her daughter and grandmother having to evacuate the house.

They were allowed back in by around 1pm, but had left the windows open. By mid-afternoon, the woman’s mother had returned – while her grandmother had left the home briefly.

Oldacre went upstairs in order to get blankets, as the house was so cold. It later transpired that the young woman had set fire to cardboard boxes using a lighter while upstairs, but “got scared” and thought she had extinguished the flames.

She returned downstairs to sit with her mum and daughter. After the fire alarms began to sound, Oldacre’s mother ventured upstairs and saw flames spread to curtains in the grandmother’s room.

The woman had the presence of mind to turn off the house’s main fuse as she left the house with her daughter and granddaughter.

Two fire appliances were called to the scene and firefighters in breathing apparatus put out the fire. The terrace of houses was evacuated.

The flames and smoke did a significant amount of damage to the house: the ceiling had fallen in and windows had melted in the heat.

Later interviewed by the police after confessing to her family, Oldacre said her mental health had deteriorated as a result of an abusive relationship. She admitted setting fire to the boxes, saying she had instantly regretted it.

Oldacre, of Abbey View Road, Moredon, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Defending, John Simmons said his young client had struggled with her mental health. He described Oldacre as having lived “an exceptionally troubled young life and one that has brought her to this point”.

The barrister said: “The tragedy in this young woman’s life began when she was a few years old and witnessed her father murdering her seven-month-old brother. Her father is still in custody now, some 20 odd years later and she has had little – and to all intents and purposes no – contact with him.”

She had been diagnosed with autism in her late teens and her family had struggled to get her support from the relevant health services.

Oldacre now had the offer of a place in supported accommodation. Her daughter was being looked after by her mother for the time being, although it was hoped she could care for the youngster in future.

Judge Peter Crabtree noted the woman was deemed by the probation service to be a low risk of reconviction. Both probation and her doctors believed she could be safely managed in the community.

Describing the matter as an “unusual case”, the judge sentenced Oldacre to two years’ imprisonment suspended for two years, with a 12-month mental health treatment requirement.

Sentencing guidelines for arson allowed the imposition of a suspended sentence or community order as an alternative to a moderate prison term, Judge Crabtree added.