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Pub blaze attacker detained in mental health unit


A man who doused two young friends in petrol and set them alight as they sat drinking in a pub beer garden will be detained indefinitely in a mental health unit.

Mitchell Dean was sentenced yesterday for the notorious attack on Russell Banks and Robert Laszewsk in the Rainbow and Dove, Charles Street, Leicester city centre, in October 2011.

Basildon Crown Court heard yesterday that Dean (22) was on the run from police for a similarly horrific crime in Essex at the time.

The court also heard Dean suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and was obsessed with demons, witchcraft and setting fires.

Dean doused Russell, 22, and Robert, 21, with petrol and set them both alight as they were sitting with friends in the early hours of Tuesday, October 25, 2011.

Russell spent six weeks in a specialist burns unit in a Nottingham hospital, most of it under sedation, and has had a series of skin grafts. He is still undergoing treatment for the injuries to his face, arms and hands.

Robert's injuries, to his arms and face, were less serious and he was discharged from hospital a week after the incident.

Dean had pleaded guilty to two counts of grievous bodily harm at an earlier hearing in relation to the attacks on Russell and Robert.

After yesterday's hearing, Russell's family said in a statement: "We're pleased this troubling time for our family has finally come to an end.

"However, when we think of the years of recovery Russell has ahead, we cannot help but feel any sentence would have been insufficient to give back what's been taken from us. But at least we can get some closure at this point.

"We would like to thank Leicestershire Police for their unending support and hard work helping to bring this man to justice."

Robert, who thanked police, his family and staff at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre, said: "We are not victims, we are survivors.

"I wish everyone a safe journey through this world, because no-one should ever go through hell while being alive."

Detective Inspector Simon Preston led the investigation. He said: "This has truly been one of the most horrific cases I have dealt with. Dean had no regard for the consequences of his actions and we're pleased he pleaded guilty and saved the victims the ordeal of having to relive the events of October 2011.

"Russell and Robert have been extremely brave throughout and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them for their co-operation.

"I hope the verdict and sentence helps them move on with their lives."

Dean was also sentenced under the Mental Health Act yesterday for an offence in Essex six days before the Rainbow and Dove attack.

Knowing the male victim of that attack, who had reportedly spurned Dean's sexual advances, was seriously injured, Dean ran away and ended up in Nottingham, where he had previously studied.

He travelled by taxi to Leicester, specifically asking to be taken to the Rainbow and Dove – an established part of the city's gay scene.

However, the court did not find evidence that in either case Dean had been motivated by homophobia.

Leicestershire Police's hate crime officer, Darren Goddard, said: "While there is no evidence to suggest this was a homophobic hate crime, the impact this has had on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was immense.

"Hopefully, this conviction will help to reassure people that Leicestershire Police do take all crime seriously."

Sentencing Dean, Judge David Owen-Jones said: "The physical and psychological effect on these young men has been enormous.

"Their lives have been shattered at a very young age. They were three men who had so much to look forward to in life.

"Their courage and determination in facing the difficulties that have happened to them is remarkable and, if I may say so, inspirational."

Pub blaze attacker detained  in mental health unit

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