An aronist who travelled to David Cameron’s West Oxfordshire village and set fire to a neighbouring farmhouse in a warning to the former prime minister has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act. 

Schizophrenic Joseph Stead, 35, was yesterday sentenced to a hospital order at Oxford Crown Court after a judge described him as a “risk to the public” for his attack in the ex-Witney MP's village. 

The court hearing came on the same day that Conservative MP Sir David Amess, for Southend West, was stabbed to death while holding a constituency surgery at a church in Leigh-on-Sea. Police have declared the incident as a terror attack. A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder. 

Paying tribute to his deceased former colleague, David Cameron wrote: “This is the most devastating, horrific and tragic news. David Amess was a kind and thoroughly decent man. Words cannot adequately express the horror of what has happened.”  

Both cases will raise concerns about the safety of MPs. Last night, the Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered an urgent review into security for members of parliament. 

Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, says she has been left "more scared but more determined" after the fatal attack on Sir David. The father-of-five is the second sitting MP to be killed in the last five years, following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016. 

READ MORE: Oxfordshire MPs pay tribute to Sir David Amess 


His death comes as Oxford Crown Court heard on Friday how obsessed Stead, 35, had printed out pictures of the Mr Cameron's home, but torched the wrong house - setting fire to an £800,000 farmhouse on March 9 last year.

The homeowner, an 82-year-old woman, had been staying at her son’s house at the time.

Stopped by the woman’s son and grandson, rambling Stead made bizarre homophobic comments about Mr Cameron. Inside his pockets were found pictures of the ex-prime minister’s home, while police later found searches for Mr Cameron on his computer.

Sentencing the arsonist to a section 41 hospital order with restrictions, Judge Nigel Daly said: “I consider there is a real risk that if he is released from hospital, if he is not under the day-to-day care of persons who can make sure he takes his medicine as appropriate, that there would be a risk to the public of serious harm from him.”

READ MORE: Defendant chokes back tears as he's cleared of causing brain injury 

Prosecutor Jonathan Stone told Oxford Crown Court on Friday that Stead had travelled from his home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, through Aylesbury and Oxford, to the village of Dean, near Chipping Norton.

Checks on his computer showed Stead had searched the net for the village where former Conservative leader Mr Cameron lived. He had printed pictures of the politician’s home.

At around 10pm he was seen near Hill House, Dean, swigging from bottles of alcohol.

At 10.30pm he called the fire brigade, telling the call handler about a fire in the village. A neighbour also called 999.

A fire report found that the blaze that gutted the house was started by a Molotov cocktail – or petrol bomb – thrown through a downstairs window. The remains of a bottle of spirits and a petrol-soaked rag were discovered at the house.

Neighbours and members of the farmhouse owner’s family tried to put out the fire but were ushered away by firefighters.

Oxford Mail: Joseph Stead torched a farmhouse next door to David Cameron's Oxfordshire village home Pictures: OM/CPS

Oxford Mail: Joseph Stead torched a farmhouse next door to David Cameron's Oxfordshire village home Pictures: OM/CPS

Oxford Mail: Joseph Stead torched a farmhouse next door to David Cameron's Oxfordshire village home Pictures: OM/CPS

The remains of the house in the wake of the fire Pictures: CPS

In a victim personal statement, the owner – an 82-year-old widowed farmer’s wife who’d lived in the property since the 1960s – said the news had been broken by her daughter shortly after midnight.

Summing up her feelings when she heard of the fire, she said: “Murderous, furious and shocked that anyone regardless of their feelings could do such a thing.”

The house had been valued at £800,000 before the fire – with the plot now only worth around half that. She had lost personal mementoes of her late husband in the blaze, as well as family photographs, her books and a collection of crocheted squares she hoped to make into blankets for her great-grandchildren.

READ MORE: Technician who stole cancer drug sees sentence reduced 

Stead was arrested at the scene. He was making bizarre racist and homophobic comments about David Cameron. He told the farmer’s grandson that he’d bought a bottle of vodka from ‘one of David Cameron’s p**i corner shops’.

The fire starter later told psychiatrists that he had gone to Dean after reading articles online. The fire was meant as a ‘threat’ to Mr Cameron, but he did not intend to cause him harm.

Stead, formerly of Cowper Road, Wellingborough, pleaded guilty to arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered. He had no previous convictions.

Oxford Mail: The Molotov cocktail used by Joseph Stead, who torched a farmhouse next door to David Cameron's Oxfordshire village home Pictures: OM/CPS

Stead's home-made petrol bomb Picture: CPS

Mitigating, Graham Blower said his client had been receiving treatment for paranoid schizophrenia at a psychiatric unit since his arrest and had grabbed his treatment ‘with both hands’ and was responding well. He had shown an insight into his behaviour.

Judge Daly commended Stead for taking the help he’d been offered, but raised concerns about the potential for him to stop taking his medication if he were released into the community.

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