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Arsonist caused gas explosion as police officers entered house

An arsonist who caused a gas explosion at a house was told he could have blown up police officers, himself, and others as a result of his ‘utterly selfish and reckless actions’.

Officers attended the address, in Mansfield Woodhouse, to arrest 29-year-old Kyhl Sykes after reports he had sexually assaulted a girl.

They knocked on the door and shouted through the letterbox but Sykes, who was alone inside, didn’t answer.

When officers broke in through the front door they smelt gas.

As they entered, Sykes struck a match which caused a backdraft.

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The kitchen door exploded open in front of police who swiftly exited the property in fear for their safety.

Neighbouring properties were evacuated before Sykes was arrested and the house was made safe.

Sykes suffered burns to his face and hands during the incident which happened on 16 February 2023. Fortunately, no one else was injured.

The day before, Sykes had engaged in sexual activity with a girl and his offending was reported to police.

At Nottingham Crown Court on Thursday (10 August 2023), prosecutor Steven Bailey said Sykes had groomed the girl and built up her trust before abusing her.

The court heard Sykes had also taken photographs of the girl when she didn’t know what was happening and had sent pictures and messages to her which caused her to feel worried and confused.

He also searched for pictures of young girls on the Internet and was found in possession of 20 indecent Category C images of a child.

Sykes, of Mansfield Woodhouse, pleaded guilty to charges of arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered, two counts of engaging in sexual activity with a girl and a further count of making indecent photographs of a child.

Victoria Rose, defending Sykes, told the court he had suffered with his mental health and a personality disorder and was extremely remorseful for his actions.

Jailing Sykes for a total of six-and-a-half years, Judge Stuart Rafferty KC, said: “You abused this girl and treated her as an object. You began to groom her and encouraged her to have feelings about you by telling her you had feelings for her, in a wholly improper way.”

In respect of the arson, Judge Rafferty told Sykes: “Fortunately for you, the police arrived before the house began to fill with gas.

“It’s perfectly obvious from their radio communications and shouting through the letterbox that you were in no doubt the police were coming into the house.

“You utterly selfishly struck the match. The backdraft could easily have been a fireball had time gone on. If the police had come about half an hour later you would have blown them, the house, yourself, and other people to kingdom come.”

Sykes received four-and-a-half years in prison for the sexual activity offences and two years, to be served consecutively, for the arson offence. He was handed a three-month concurrent sentence for the possession of indecent images.

He was also made the subject of a 10-year restraining order and will be a notified sex offender for life.

Detective Inspector Craig Hall, of Nottinghamshire Police, said “Sykes is a dangerous sexual offender, and I am pleased he is now behind bars where he can no longer pose a risk to children.

“The impact of serious sexual offences like those committed by Sykes is devastating for survivors. No child should suffer sexual abuse and we encourage anyone with any concerns to come forward and report it to us so we can continue to protect children.

“I hope now Sykes is off the streets it brings the victim some degree of closure and comfort. I also hope the successful outcome of this investigation will give other victims the confidence to come forward and report serious sexual offences.

“I’d like to reassure people that Nottinghamshire Police will always listen to and support victims, their reports will be taken extremely seriously, and we will do everything in our power to ensure dangerous individuals like Sykes are caught and brought to justice.”

There is a reporting tool on the Nottinghamshire Police website where sexual offences can be reported. Here victims can tell police what has happened to them, or to someone else.

People can report anonymously, without giving their details. You can also report any crime online or speak to us by calling 101. In an emergency call 999.

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