Man accused of hospital arson attack charged with manslaughter of patient

A man accused of launching an arson attack on an NHS hospital has been charged with the manslaughter of a elderly patient who died following the fire.

Thomas Ashcroft, 39, is alleged to have set fire to the Royal Stoke University Hospital and a student accommodation building in north Staffordshire on the same day.

A preliminary hearing at Stafford Crown Court was told Ashcroft, who had faced two charges of arson with intent to endanger life, has now been charged with the manslaughter of 89-year-old May Maxfield.

Prosecutor Patrick Sullivan told the Recorder of Stafford, Judge Michael Chambers QC, that the Crown allege a causal link between the hospital fire and the pensioner's death.

Ashcroft, of Musgrave Crescent, Shirecliffe, Sheffield, was not asked to enter pleas to the manslaughter and arson charges, which relate to the hospital fire and a blaze at Staffordshire University's Beacon Building on June 7.

The fire at the hospital led to the evacuation of hundreds of patients and the declaration of a major incident.

Ashcroft, who appeared in court via video-link from HMP Dovegate, near Uttoxeter, faces two alternative charges of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered.

The defendant, who appeared on the video-link wearing a grey sweatshirt and an orange bib, was remanded in custody until a further hearing in September.

His trial is likely to take place in November.

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