Luton arsonist jailed for life after putting family's lives at risk and causing over £1.5m worth of damage

A judge has said that a young family was “lucky to get out alive” as he handed down a life sentence to a Luton man behind a string of rural fires.

Alexander Gentry, 43, last living in Napier Road, Luton, set fire to a barn in Wood End Lane, Kempston, in the early hours of January 8 before starting another fire at a thatched cottage in Green End Road just two hours later as a young family slept.

Gentry (inset), and the destroyed cottage

Gentry (inset), and the destroyed cottage

From there, he began another fire spree in Great Ouse Way, Bromham, where he set light to garages housing valuable vintage cars and agricultural equipment.

At Luton Crown Court yesterday, Gentry was jailed for life for each of three counts of arson with intent to endanger life, and told he must serve a minimum of seven years in prison before being considered for parole.

Judge Andrew Bright said he was in no doubt that Gentry's intention was to cause maximum damage.

DC Gareth Jones, who led the investigation, said: “Gentry set fires that destroyed property worth almost £1.5 million, but more importantly, put people in serious danger and devastated their lives. Luckily, no one was injured.

Valuable vintage cars were destroyed

Valuable vintage cars were destroyed

“The sentence imposed on him today reflects the gravity with which we and the courts view arson, and he will no longer pose a risk to the county’s communities.”

Station Commander Lorraine Moore, from Beds Fire and Rescue Service, added: “We’re delighted that Gentry has been handed such a lengthy sentence and feel this reflects the severity of his offences.

“Tackling three simultaneous, intentional fires tied up a large number of fire service resources for a significant period of time.

“Gentry put the lives of several people at risk, both members of the public and firefighters. Fortunately no-one was hurt but his actions had a serious impact on the victims and I’m pleased that this has been recognised.”