A man who stalked teachers, set fire to a school and torched a house as part of a personal crusade to ‘protect children’ has been jailed.
Philip Day, of Saltash Close, Runcorn, appeared at Chester Crown Court earlier today, Friday 31 May, where he was sentenced to 15-years in prison with a five-year extended licence.
The 55-year-old had earlier been found guilty of two counts of stalking, arson with intent to endanger life and arson following a six week trial.
The charges related to the stalking of two teachers and an arson at the University of Chester Academy Northwich (UCAN); along with a second arson at a house in Saffron Walden.
Following today’s sentencing Detective Constable Paul Cundy of Northwich CID, who was in charge of the investigation, said: “Today’s sentencing brings to an end what has been a lengthy and complex investigation.
“Day’s actions were those of a dangerous and obsessive individual, who took the law into his own hands and made the lives of his victims a living hell with no regard for the consequences. Over an eight-year period he subjected them to a sustained campaign of stalking and harassment.
“On top of this, he set fire to the school and caused more than £2.4 million worth of damage to the building, showing no concern for the disruption his actions would cause to staff and pupils, many of whom were about to sit their GCSEs - one of the most important times of their lives.
“I hope that the sentence handed to Day will provide some closure to his victims, and to the local community, and allow them to move on with their lives and start to heal the harm and distress he caused.”
Two of the charges against Day related to the stalking of two teachers at the school. To help secure the conviction against Day the team from Northwich were supported by officers from the force’s Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit.
The specialist unit, which is aimed at protecting victims of stalking and managing perpetrators, launched in Cheshire a year ago and is one of only three in the country - and the first of its kind in the North West.
Detective Constable David Thomason, who works as part of the unit which assisted with this case, said: “This is an unusual case and it highlights the fact that there are many different types of stalking and there can be multiple victims.
“The impact of this behaviour should never be underestimated - in some cases it can be life changing.
“As part of this case the Integrated Anti-Stalking Unit offered expert advice to the investigation team - looking at the potential risks posed by Day. An important part of our role was to validate the victims’ experience and call it out as stalking.
“Following our initial assessment it became clear that Day fitted the profile of a ‘resentful stalker’ and posed a serious risk to people and property.
“He truly believes that he is the victim of an injustice and would stop at nothing to prove that he was right.
“This distorted way of thinking meant that he was clearly oblivious to the incalculable harm and distress that he was causing to his victims and to the wider community.
“Following today’s sentencing, Day is now behind bars for a long time. He has maintained his innocence throughout and, in my opinion, will never truly acknowledge the impact of his actions.”
Following the sentencing Chief Inspector Simon Meegan, who was in charge of policing in the area at the time of the incident, thanked local people for their support throughout the investigation.
He said: “I would like to thank all those involved in this case and acknowledge the help of the local community who were key in identifying Day as a suspect.
“This has been an extremely lengthy investigation and the work undertaken by the detectives to bring Day to justice should not be underestimated.
“I would also like to thank the firefighters who attended the fire. Not only did they extinguish the blaze but they also managed to rescue many items – including valuable school work – from inside the building.”
The case dates back to 2010, when Day made unfounded allegations against a teacher from the University of Chester Academy Northwich (UCAN), which was formally known as Rudheath High School.
An investigation was carried out by the Cheshire Constabulary’s Public Protection Directorate, but the claims were never substantiated.
Not satisfied with the outcome, and believing that there had been a cover-up, Day decided to launch a personal crusade in a bid to achieve his own justice.
Over the following years Day stalked the school and those working within it, specifically focusing on the headteacher and the teacher that he had made the original allegations against.
During this time he posted a number of messages and videos on social media naming the teacher – he also falsely claimed that children had been harmed at the academy.
Day went as far as warning parents against sending their children to the school as they were attending an open evening for prospective pupils.
His mission came to a head in the early hours of Sunday 25 February 2018, when he deliberately set fire to the school.
The roof of the building was set alight in 17 different locations – Day systematically removed roof tiles and pierced the felt before pouring petrol inside and lighting it.
He was seen by people living nearby calmly strolling around the school grounds carrying a jerrycan as the roof was on fire.
Two local residents took it upon themselves to locate Day as he left the site. They saw him running across a road outside the school before losing sight of him.
The couple then saw a red Volvo drive away from the scene and noted down the registration number. Police traced this vehicle as being registered to Day’s wife.
Day was later arrested in relation to the incident.
When he was arrested he was in possession of the keys to the car and the vehicle itself was located in a cul-de-sac near to his home.
Following his arrest, Day refused to answer any questions put to him by officers.
The fire caused extensive damage to the school – it is estimated the damage will cost in the region of £2.4 million to repair.
Following his arrest in Cheshire officers were contacted by colleagues at Essex Police, who wanted to speak to Day regarding an arson at a house in Essex.
The incident was linked to a case where Day again believed that there had been a miscarriage of justice, involving a woman.
Officers discovered that Day had contacted the woman over social media and started to have an affair with her.
After forming a relationship with her, Day decided to target a man involved in the same case.
On 31 December 2017 Day drove to the man’s home in Saffron Walden and set fire to the property.
He set 15 separate fires across the building, causing £1.6 million worth of damage.
Just hours after starting the fire Day posted on social media that his New Year’s resolution was to ‘work for children’.