A mother and her two children had to flee from an upstairs flat after their downstairs neighbour used lighter fluid to start an early morning fire.

Richard Kingdon was seen behaving strangely after starting the fire in Ilfracombe on July 14, where he was carrying a fishing rod with a plastic fish on the end of the line.

When one neighbour asked him if he had started the blaze he replied ‘yes, oops’. He told police he felt frustrated and wanted to ‘blow up the world’.

Kingdon, aged 51, had a history of mental illness and had been walking around the harbour in Ilfracombe in the early hours before he returned to his ground floor flat and lit the fire at 7.30 am.

The family living upstairs saw him throwing items out of his window before they heard a loud bank as he poured lighter fluid onto a duvet and set it alight.

Kingdon, formerly of Greenways, Ilfracombe, admitted arson, being reckless whether life was endangered, when he appeared at Exeter Crown Court.

He was sent to Langdon Hospital in Dawlish under an indefinite hospital order by Judge David Evans.

Judge Evans told him: “The order is for your own well being and for the well being of the public.

“Because of the nature of the offence, your past, your mental illness, and the risk of further offences, I am satisfied it is necessary to make this order to protect the public.”

Nigel Wraith, prosecuting, said a mother, who lived above Kingdon’s flat, was woken by one of her two children on the morning because he was throwing items out of his window.

The child woke her mother again two-and-a-half hours later at 7.30 am after hearing a ‘massive bang’ from downstairs.

Mr Wraith said: “The mother saw smoke billowing out of the window. She got her family out and got other residents out, including one who took some time because they had mobility issues.

“Kingdon was acting in a bizarre fashion, at one stage appearing outside with a fishing rod with a plastic fish on the line. He was asking what was going on.

“A neighbour from another property looking at what was by then a considerable fire. He was bare chested and his behaviour was described as being really erratic.

“When asked if he started the fire he said ‘yes, oops’.”

He interfered with firefighters by throwing objects at the building.

Kingdom said he also tried to cause an explosion by putting a tin of mustard into a microwave but nothing had happened.

Langdon Hospital consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Anil Mohandas, said Kingdon is suffering from bipolar affective disorder and will need in patient treatment for a time that cannot be ascertained.

Richard Crabb, defending, said Langdon did not consent to the hospital order but it was accepted that it is the appropriate course.