Arsonist pleads guilty to setting Sarnia housefires

·3 min read

Some answers were revealed in Sarnia Court this week into a pair of fires last year that set Lanark Court ablaze.

Nathan Gardiner, 30, appeared Feb. 8 pleading guilty to multiple arson charges. Several townhouses in the complex just south of Great Lakes Secondary School were destroyed in the early morning hours of Nov. 3. After a six day investigation Gardiner was arrested and charged.

Fortunately no one was injured in the blaze. Two men who rented one of the destroyed homes noticed a crackling sound and smelled smoke around 3:30 am. They were able to flee as fire seeped into their unit.

Sarnia firefighters arrived to fight the inferno, but at least three of the townhomes were destroyed by the time they got it under control. The Fire Marshal was called in to investigate and discovered fires had been lit in two homes. A smashed window and bottle filled with gasoline led to the conclusion the fires were deliberate.

One of the men who escaped said he woke up to someone yelling “Fire! Fire! Get out!” While he didn't see the man, he was confident the voice was Gardiner, who he was familiar with. Based on this tip Sarnia Police located Gardiner at the Inn of the Good Shepherd Nov. 9, where staff said he had been talking about setting fires.

Police questioned Gardiner and he quickly admitted what he’d done. “I did some bad things… I lit houses on fire,” he said. When officers asked him where, he pointed in the direction of Lanark Court.

“I’m afraid I am going to light more houses on fire and hurt someone,” Gardiner continued. “I’ve been trying to tell someone what’s been bothering me, but no one wants to listen to me.” Gardiner was then arrested.

Court heard a possible explanation for the arson in the form of a feud between Gardiner and the owner of the townhomes that were targeted. The man was also Gardiner’s landlord. Crown attorney Ryan Iaquinta says during the fall the pair had “several differences of opinion resulting in significant altercations between them.”

“The males had become increasingly aggressive toward each other, with violent incidents occurring between October 28-30,” says Iaquinta.

One of these involved a fight between the two at a Tim Hortons on Indian Rd. less than a week before the fires. After leaving Gardiner pursued the man in his Toyota Corolla and tried to run his landlord’s pickup truck off the road. He eventually pulled in front of the truck at an intersection, then slammed the car into reverse and smashed into the truck. The truck was left inoperable, and although Gardiner fled he was arrested nearby soon after.

Gardiner plead to a careless driving charge for this incident.

Justice Anne McFadyen postponed Gardiner’s sentencing until March 29 while a pre-sentence report is prepared. “There are some underlying, quite significant mental health issues,” says defense lawyer Sarah Donohue of her client.

The report will focus on Gardiner’s emotional state during the events.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent