A MAN who became ‘obsessed’ with the idea that a ‘paedophile ring’ was being protected by a Rudheath school set fire to the building after a lengthy campaign against it, a court has heard.

Philip Day, 55 and from Runcorn, has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including setting fire to UCAN – now Rudheath Senior Academy – in Shipbrook Road on February 25 last year.

He is also accused of stalking the teacher in question – who cannot be named for legal reasons – as well as headteacher Cath Green.

Two further charges relate to a burglary and house fire in Essex, which prosecutors say he became involved in as a paedophile-fighting vigilante.

Opening the case, the Crown Prosecution Service said Mr Day, of Saltash Close, had been the subject of three separate investigations, into stalking in Northwich, burglary and arson in Essex, and arson at UCAN.

The jury heard how Mr Day had been investigated for harassment of the two UCAN staff members, carried out over a number of months due to his wrongly-held belief that a sexual offence had occurred.

An official allegation has never been made against the teacher or school, but thorough investigations were carried out and completed by the school, local authority and police.

As a result of no charges being brought, Mr Day began posting videos to Facebook making ‘wild accusations’ regarding the school being a ‘playground for paedophiles’, and became involved in the ‘paedophile-hunting’ community.

Through this, he met Samantha Baldwin, with whom the prosecution say he had an affair based on their mutual feelings of injustice. Ms Baldwin lost custody of her two children following a high-profile case in 2017, where she falsely accused their father of sexually abusing them.

She then fled with them, sparking a large-scale manhunt in Nottinghamshire.

Two of the counts relate to Mr Day allegedly travelling down to Essex, where Ms Baldwin’s ex-partner and children were living, and committing burglary and then arson at their empty house around New Year’s Eve 2017.

Two months later, after becoming ‘angry’ when interviewed by police about his conduct relating to UCAN staff, he is alleged to have set fire to UCAN early one Sunday morning by creating 18 seats of fire using a jerry can and combustible materials.

He was arrested later that day, and the resulting investigation led police to link the cases in Northwich and Essex.

Mr Connor, for the CPS, told the jury: “In a nutshell, Mr Day became obsessed with the idea [of a rape] by a teacher at UCAN.

“There is no doubt that his belief in that is genuinely held, however the prosecution says that his belief is not grounded upon any hard facts.

“Mr Day made a complaint to the school and then the police about the teacher, and publicly made wild accusations that the school was a ‘playground for paedophiles’, asserting that there were other victims and abusers at the school.

“He is a man who enjoys the spotlight. He carried on his campaign against the school, teacher and headteacher, the police officers involved, and anyone deemed to be supporting the school and those individuals.

“By that stage he had wrongly and irrationally convinced himself that there was a large-scale establishment conspiracy to cover up the crime.”

Mr Connor added: “One can only imagine the impact the defendant’s behaviour had on the school staff, parents and ironically the schoolchildren, who he claimed to protect.”

Mr Day denies all charges. The trial continues at Chester Crown Court, and is expected to last up to four weeks.

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