Who wants to be a millionaire songwriter set his house on fire in a “suicide attempt”
An award-winning songwriter who wrote the theme song Who Wants to be a Millionaire has been given a suspended jail sentence after setting his own house on fire in what prosecutors called a failed suicide attempt.
Matthew Strachan, 50, has also contributed music to shows such as BBC’s Question Time and Winning Lines.
He is said to have won 12 awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, including 10 for the soundtrack of the famous game show.
Kingston Crown Court learned he was an ‘incredibly talented renowned songwriter’ when sober, but was an alcoholic and was struggling with the breakdown of his marriage when he started two fires in his house. .
He admitted an arson chief earlier this year.
The Crown Prosecution Service offered no evidence for a more serious charge of reckless arson as to whether life was in danger.
This was after Strachan’s defense team submitted a report from a fire investigator who said the fires started in the kitchen and living room of his Twickenham home lacked the capacity to spread. to other properties.
But the sentencing judge heard that the family of four living next door feared Strachan might try to set the house on fire again – and “take them with him.”
In a statement, a resident said: âSince the incident, Matthew has mainly remained sober, but there have been incidents where he relapsed and started drinking again, which caused many emergency services to shut down. get to the address.
âI am constantly worried that he will set his house on fire and take us with him.
âWe can hear her moaning and whimpering in her house and having to put on loud music or turn on the television to drown her so the kids aren’t afraid. He wakes us up during the night.
âI have to lie to my daughter. We had to keep this away from her because I know it would scare her. I constantly worry about what might happen and it keeps me awake at night. If I hear a moan, we’re afraid he’s going to burn the house down.
“There is a constant threat that he could set the house on fire.”
Sign up for our daily newsletter to stay informed of all essential information about www.mirror.co.uk/email
Strachan was given a 10-month suspended sentence for two years with alcohol and mental health treatment requirements.
The court heard Strachan set bedding and cardboard on fire in his living room and kitchen on the evening of March 6 last year.
Prosecutor Charlotte Hole said, “During that call he told the call manager it was no longer helping and said he was going to jump out the window.”
The court heard from paramedics, and police arrived to find Strachan in the garden, apparently fallen from a first-story window.
Officers noticed a burning smell and London firefighters were called in, who had to force entry to the house as Strachan had changed the locks in the early hours of this morning.
Two small fires were discovered, one in the middle of the kitchen and another in the living room.
The family of four living next door were all out by then, the court said, but returned home around 8 p.m. after emergency services arrived.
The prosecutor said: “She has returned home in what she describes as ‘utter chaos’.”
It was said that no damage had been done to the neighbor’s property but that there was a “significant amount of smoke” and a “strong burning smell”.
Ms Hole said: âThe family received a handwritten letter in the mailbox apparently from Mr Strachan. In this he explained what he had done, acknowledged that he knew it scared them a lot and that it must be traumatic for them.
Strachan reportedly wrote: “I behaved selfishly and recklessly and could have done some damage, I want to be a good neighbor, not a terrifying neighbor.”
Ms Hole added that Strachan told police, in a prepared statement, that he wanted to kill himself.
She said he added, “He never intended to hurt anyone and was devastated by his actions and wanted to work with his psychiatrist to get better.”
Philip McGhee, mitigating, told the court that Strachan’s colleagues in the music industry had written references describing his “incredible talent.”
He said: âHe did not imagine that serious harm or harm would be done to anyone. We are dealing with a man who could be described as seriously ill at the time.
“He is described with great praise by those who know him as an incredible musical talent, incredibly talented, someone of reputation and a talented songwriter.”
Mr McGhee said Strachan suffered a trauma as a child that led to his alcoholism and recently separated from his wife.
Judge Anne Brown said: âYou started two fires while intoxicated in the middle of a locked house which is a semi-detached property with a family next door who did not know if any damage would be done to something or to someone.
âOf course, your neighbors were very concerned about this incident.
âThey were especially scared by this incident and constantly fear that you might burn down their house and their understandable fear means that she cannot leave her daughter at home like she would otherwise.
âIt has an impact on their family life. She describes being on high alert, she said it was their dream house but you messed it up.
Judge Brown ordered Strachan to return to court every three months for updates on his progress.
He was also ordered to pay Â£ 1,500 in prosecution costs.
The Samaritans are available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123, email [emailÂ protected] or visit the website to find your nearest branch. You count.