Stranger who set fire to house and killed pensioner in Balsall heath sectioned for 14 years

A man has today (13 April) been jailed after previously pleading guilty to manslaughter. Peggy Wright, a much loved great-grandmother was killed and her son seriously injured during a house fire last year. 

Peggy was 83 years old and had lived with her son for many years at her home in Lapworth Grove, Birmingham. At 9.30 am on Sunday 18 April, Mark O’Brien poured petrol through the letterbox of their home. 

He lit the petrol and the fire took hold very quickly at the entrance to the house and the foot of the stairs. Peggy who was asleep at the time, was trapped in a bedroom and with no clear escape route, her son had to make the difficult decision to help her escape via a bedroom window.  

Emergency services found them both with serious injuries and burns having jumped from the bedroom window and later that day Peggy sadly died from her injuries. 

After setting the fire, O’Brien callously fled the area, with no regard for the destruction he had just caused. 

Later on the same day, O’Brien called police and confessed to starting the fire because he was angry. He was arrested outside the Bullring. 

At Birmingham Crown Court on 21 January, Mark O’Brien, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility, arson with intent to endanger life and grievous bodily harm. 


At Birmingham Crown Court he was given a life sentence, with a minimum of 14 years. O’Brien is currently being held in a secure mental health facility , and will only be transferred to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence if he is deemed well enough. In a tribute her family said: “Peggy was a much-loved and respected member of her local community over a period of many years. “A mother, sister, grandmother and great-grandmother, she was devoted to her family but always had time to show compassion and understanding to others.

“Her loss following the sudden and devastating events has left her loved ones and many friends beyond grief, in a state of bewilderment and has created a void in her family that can never be filled.

“The family would like to express sincere thanks and appreciation for the many good wishes and messages of support, but would respectfully request some privacy at this sad and most difficult time.” Detective Chief Inspector Wes Martin, said: “This is a tragic case and O’Brien’s actions have destroyed a completely innocent family. 

“Peggy was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who had lived in this area for much of her life and was known and well loved by all who knew her. 

“Both her son, who was seriously injured and continues to recover from his injuries, and her daughter are having to come to terms with the loss of their mum in such distressing circumstances. “My thoughts are with the entire family. I hope this sentence and the fact that O’Brien will have ot live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life brings some comfort to Peggy’s family.”

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