Convinced people were out to kill him, Daniel Terrence Brooks set fire to his apartment to get police attention.
However, Brooks was suffering from drug-induced psychosis when he started the Brisbane fire which caused extensive damage and caused panic, forcing a neighbor to jump from her balcony.
Brooks, 48, was “fried out of my head” on ice when he set fire to his apartment at an 11-story hotel in South Bank in July 2020.
Experiencing auditory hallucinations, delusions and intense fear, Brooks believed that people were outside his door and they wanted to kill him.
“He became obsessed with the idea that there were people looking for him and barricaded himself in his room,” Crown Attorney Elizabeth Kelso said.
Unable to call the police because his phone was dead, Brooks hatched a plan.
He believed a fire would not only draw police attention, but also create a chance to escape undetected with other residents as they evacuated the building.
After setting his unit on fire, Brooks was seen by a neighbor banging on a window and screaming before calling emergency services.
A first-floor resident jumped from her balcony to escape the fire, breaking her ankle.
Parts of the unit complex – which was close to several skyscrapers in the heart of South Bank – were falling to the ground when a “very large” contingent of emergency services arrived.
“It (the fire) could have been horrific in its outcome,” said Brisbane District Court Chief Judge Brian Devereaux.
Several crews quickly brought the fire under control, but it still caused extensive damage to the building, with insurers paying over $500,000.
Brooks eventually evacuated his unit but armed himself with a small knife “in case people were there”.
He returned the blade without incident when approached outside the unit compound by police.
Brooks was detained under emergency review authority and taken to hospital for treatment and evaluation for smoke inhalation.
Brooks later told police he had consumed ice cream and had no intention of hurting anyone with the fire.
He felt shame, embarrassment and relief that no one was seriously injured, the court heard.
Brooks was on parole and had lived in the apartment for less than a month.
A psychiatrist’s report read in court said Brooks had a long history of substance addiction but did not have a primary psychotic illness.
However, he said Brooks had experienced several similar episodes of sometimes blooming psychosis and had acted dangerously on methamphetamine in the past.
The report states that Brooks entered a drug-induced psychotic state in July 2020 and had no idea he had once again lost touch with reality.
“You clearly thought people were out to kill you,” Chief Justice Devereaux said.
The offense was the 41st entry in Brooks’ criminal history.
It included a three-year prison sentence for breaking into a school and burning down the principal’s office.
Brooks pleaded guilty Thursday to endangering a particular property by fire.
He was sentenced to four years in prison.
But Brooks walked free after being suspended for four years, with 600 days in custody declared served.
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