NEIGHBOURS who say they saw arson-accused David Grothier walk into a building which was set alight were claimed to have seized a “golden opportunity” to see him punished.

Andrew and Irena Claridge both gave damning evidence against Grothier, claiming they had seen and heard him leave his flat four times before smoke emerged from Gazelle Court, in Colchester.

Mr Claridge said he saw Grothier break a 1.5-inch thick wooden stake over his knee from his kitchen window.

Grothier is said to have left Gazelle Court with a hood up and his hands in pockets, which Mrs Claridge remembers was paired with sunglasses before he disappeared off the estate.

Within ten minutes the fire brigade arrived, the judge heard at Ipswich Crown Court.

“That’s what made me get suspicious. His behaviour was shady,” Mrs Claridge said.

“My husband and I began talking and he said something’s definitely going to happen.”


Healthcare assistant Mrs Claridge noticed Grothier begin taking “cautious steps” between Chinook - where Grothier and the Claridges live - and Gazelle Court.

Challenging her, Edward Duncan-Smith, defending, said: “When you saw that smoke, you felt it was a golden opportunity to see Mr Grothier get his just desserts.”

He added: “You and your husband have an obsession with Mr Grothier.”

The Claridges gave evidence against Grothier last year when he admitted possessing a kitchen knife and common assault against Mr Claridge in a dispute over CCTV. He was jailed for ten months.

Mr Duncan-Smith referenced a Channel 5 documentary the pair began filming for, and copies of the Gazette with Grothier’s address scribbled on which were posted to neighbours.

“I’ve got no vendetta against him, that’s totally wrong,” Mr Claridge said.

“I nearly got divorced because of this man, but we held it together”

He added: “I saw the man break the sticks in front of me. How would I know that unless I’m psychic?”

Grothier denies four counts of arson, and attempted arson, with intent to endanger life and arson, and attempted arson, being reckless as to whether life is endangered.

  • The trial continues.