'Dangerous' arsonist serving life sentence who was sent to an open prison tried to torch man's flat while on day release
Macdonald sentenced to life in 1996 after admitting arson at block of flatsHe failed to return to open prison after day release for community workHe was AWOL for three months before trying to burn down shop and flat



17:22 GMT, 12 December 2012

Edward Macdonald

Arsonist: Macdonald pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life and arson when he appeared before Norwich Crown Court

An arsonist tried to burn down a man's flat after being allowed out of his open prison for a community work placement, a court heard

Edward Macdonald, 46, went on the run after being given day release for a community work placement at the Ransomes Europark
industrial estate on June 28.

Norwich Crown Court heard how he failed to return to Hollesley Bay open prison, Suffolk, having been deemed 'minimal risk' by the prison authorities.

After three months on the run, Macdonald, who was sentenced to life for arson in 1996, tried to burn down a shop and the occupied flat above it in Great Yarmouth.

The court heard how he set light to
cardboard near a dustbin outside the Crown Stores convenience store in
the seaside town just before 9pm on September 16.

A man in his 60s was in his flat
above the store, but managed to escape injury as flames licked around
the windows of his flat, his front door and the shopfront.

Firefighters were said to particularly concerned as there was a gas pipe near to where the fire began.

CCTV images showed Macdonald approaching where the blaze started and leaving the scene.

He also set light to bushes near the Amazonia Butterfly Farm in Marine Parade, Great Yarmouth.

was given an indeterminate sentence for a minimum of three years to run
concurrently with his life term after he admitted arson and arson with
intent to endanger life.

Category D Hollesley Bay open prison

Minimal risk: Macdonald was transfered to Category D Hollesley Bay open prison, Suffolk, after being deemed 'minimal risk' by the prison authorities

denied possessing a claw hammer, three knives, a chisel and a half pair
of scissors and the charge was ordered to lay on file.

MacDonald was jailed for life at Lewes Crown Court in July 1996 after he admitted arson at a block of flats in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

He used a pot of paint and unopened mail to start a blaze on a communal staircase. A visitor was injured putting the fire out.

Judge Richard Brown, who jailed him in 1996, said: 'The medical reports indicate to me that if you are at liberty you are likely to be very dangerous and put other people's lives at risk. The only appropriate sentence is one of life imprisonment.'

Category D prison Hollesley Bay open prison, Suffolk which once held
disgraced Tory Jeffrey Archer is nicknamed Holiday Bay because of its
sea views and its allegedly relaxed atmosphere.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: 'Only prisoners representing minimal risk of escape and harm to the public are eligible for release on temporary licence.

'Prisoners may be released on temporary licence providing they meet strict criteria and pass a rigorous risk assessment.

'If prisoners breach their licence in any way, they will be subject to disciplinary proceedings and may be returned to a higher security prison.

'Prisoners located in open conditions have been rigorously risk assessed and categorised as being of low risk to the public.

'Over 96 per cent of prisoners who abscond are re-captured and returned to custody.'

Last year a study found that 261 inmates had absconded from Hollesley Bay between 1995 and 2009.

Lord Archer

Released: Lord Archer was one of Hollesley Bay's most famous residents after serving 2 years of a four year perjury sentence. Here he is being driven home after his release in 2003