Balsall Heath arsonist jailed for life for killing much loved great-grandmother Peggy Wright

Peggy Wright, 83, had lived at her home in Balsall Heath with her son for years before it was set on fire by Mark O’Brien

A great-grandmother was asleep at her home in Balsall Heath when arsonist Mark O’Brien poured petrol through the letterbox.

It was 9.30am on Sunday April 18 last year and her son was also home. Fire quickly took hold at the entrance to the house on Lapworth Grove.

Peggy Wright, known affectionately as Peggy Mitchell, and her son could see no escape, so they made the difficult decision to escape by jumping out of a bedroom window.

Emergency services found them both with serious injuries and burns. Later that day Peggy sadly died from her injuries.

Mark O’Brien

Arsonist Mark O’Brien fled the area after setting light to Peggy’s home giving no regard for the destruction he had caused.

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

O’Brien, of no fixed address, had previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility, arson with intent to endanger life and grievous bodily harm.

Yesterday (April 13) he was given a life sentence at Birmingham Crown Court, 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.

Peggy Wright

Loving tributes paid to Peggy

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."

Tributes to Peggy Wright, a great grandmother who died in an arson attack at her home in Balsall Heath, Birmingham

What have police said about the case?

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 to live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life brings some comfort to Peggy’s family.”

Police at the scene on Lapworth Grove, Balsall Heath, where Mark O’Brien poured petrol through a letterbox

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