A spurned lover who risked families' lives when he set fire to his flat in an apparent suicide bid has been jailed for more than three years.

Lee Songhurst, 29, caused £6,000 worth of damage when he set his flat in Sutton Court, Brighton Road, ablaze shortly after 9pm on May 12 last year.

People living in the block, including four families with young children had to be evacuated because of the fire following a day in which Songhurst called police repeatedly.

Police took Songhurst to a station as a witness to the blaze as they were suspicious but, during his interview, he admitted starting the blaze himself. He told officers he set fire to a cardboard box on a windowsill and said he wanted to die in the fire.

Songhurst was sentenced to 40 months in prison at Croydon Crown Court on Thursday, January 3, after admitting arson with intent to endanger life.

In the run up to the fire Songhurst called police to report his girlfriend missing. It turned out she had left and did not intend to return.

On the day of the fire he called police three times - twice to say people had been throwing things at his windows and once to report graffiti. The last call came just four hours before the fire.

After he started the fire, Songhurst alerted two men in a nearby flat who tried to put the fire out with a pan of water but it was too big. the men then shouted and banged on doors to alert others to the danger.

No-one was hurt in the blaze.