Extra custody for prisoner in cell fire

PUBLISHED: 07:04 20 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:03 22 October 2010


The governor of Norwich prison last night paid tribute to the bravery of prison officers who risked their own lives to rescue two unconscious prisoners from a blazing cell full of choking smoke.

The governor of Norwich prison last night paid tribute to the bravery of prison officers who risked their own lives to rescue two unconscious prisoners from a blazing cell full of choking smoke.

Prisoner Chett Davison, 32, was so upset about visiting restrictions that he and his cellmate drank illegal hooch, smashed up his cell and barricaded themselves in before setting light to the cell on B-wing, which houses more than 100 other prisoners.

Fortunately a prison officer spotted the smoke and six foot flames at the cell door and raised the alarm but it was difficult for staff to gain access because of the barricade.

Officers tackled the blaze and prison officer Tim Oldman managed to crawl into the cell feeling his way through the thick smoke on his hands and knees. With the help of principal officer Shaun Payne, he dragged the unconscious Davison and his cellmate to safety before firefighters arrived.

Afterwards, a fire officer said that without the prompt action by officers the two prisoners would have died.

Yesterday at Norwich Crown Court, Davison, who is already serving a four-year sentence for drug offences, was given a further four and a half years after he admitted the arson attack.

Judge Peter Jacobs told him it was a "serious case".

"There is little doubt that if prison officers had not intervened in the way they did you would have both died in that cell."

He said his actions had also put the lives of other prisoners in danger.

Last night prison governor James Shanley said that in total five officers were involved in the rescue operation and praised the bravery of staff in what was a difficult situation.

"They weighed up very quickly what the safest option was. They entered the cell without the proper equipment. It is very, very brave that they took on that role."

He said they could have waited until firefighters arrived but added: "I would imagine that if they had waited it would have been too late. This also shows the dangers of people lighting fires in this type of environment and I welcome the sentence the judge has given."

He said the officers involved had all received recognition for the roles they played, with two of them receiving commendations.

John Morgan, prosecuting, told the court the fact that prison officers dealt with the blaze also meant that only the cells either side had to be evacuated and not the whole wing.

He said when Davison was rescued and taken to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, he became violent and had to be handcuffed.

"It was clear Davison and his cellmate were under the influence of alcohol. He became aggressive towards staff and had to be handcuffed."

He said there had been concern over Mr Oldman and he was examined at the scene for smoke inhalation but needed no further treatment.

Mr Morgan said that when Davison was interviewed about the matter he admitted starting the blaze which caused £1200 damage to his cell.

William Carter, in mitigation, said that Davison was upset over his visiting arrangements which he felt were unfair.

"He had been in there for a number of months and had tried on a number of occasions to be allowed open visits. He felt he had been treated badly and decided on this scheme. He had no intention that the fire would go as far as it did. All he wanted to do was to make a nuisance of himself."

He added: "It was a stupid thing to do that got totally out of hand. He had frightened himself."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press