A man obsessed by fire tried to burn down a classroom while on bail for assaulting a 91-year-old woman.
Shane Reid, 39, who has been in and out of court for 15 years on various charges due to his fascination with fire and emergency services, this morning admitted a charge of arson and one of assault in the Hamilton District Court.
In the first incident on January 26 in Wellington, Reid and the victim - who had limited vision but was well aware of where she was walking - were heading toward each other on the footpath.
As Reid passed by he stepped sideways into the elderly woman's path, stuck out his elbow, striking her in the right hip and causing her to be startled by the impact and moved sideways.
Reid then began to bray like a donkey and walked off.
The victim came close to falling in the gutter and was left frightened because of the bizarre nature of the incident.
He was on bail for the assault when he set a classroom on fire at Hamilton's Fraser High School on July 23.
Reid went to one of the classrooms about midnight and noticed a hole in the side of a building.
He put a candle in it and lit it with one of two lighters he brought with him.
Reid walked away and watched it burn from a distance but when it burnt out he put another candle in the hole and lit it but that also went out.
He then put a third candle in and once he saw smoke coming from the building he called 111 and said he had set fire to a classroom.
Emergency services arrived and found a small fire with some flames and smoke by a building.
He was found nearby by police and arrested.
Judge Simon Menzies convicted Reid on the two charges and remanded him in custody until sentencing on March 6 next year.
Today's conviction is his fifth for arson.
Reid was a suspect in the 2001 arson of Hamilton's Te Rapa police station.
Police then believed Reid developed an obsession, then a grudge, after being told he was trespassing at the police station.
He was acquitted of the arson but in following years began torching schools.
In 2004 he set fire to Cambridge High School, and Forest Lake Primary School.
Reid's schooling was difficult and he was bullied, according to Cambridge Detective Scott McDougall, who met Reid in the late 1990s when he was the victim of a crime.
"Perhaps he felt that teachers didn't do enough to help him and that was his way of getting back at the education system," McDougall told the Herald on Sunday in 2011.
Reid was tormented so relentlessly at a Tokoroa primary school that his mother Doris sent him to a special needs institute in Christchurch.
He attended that school for five years.
It is understood Reid led a lonely life, avoiding ridicule by venturing out only at night. He spent his time chatting to police and petrol station attendants and chasing after fire engines.
May 2001: Te Rapa community police station is torched. Shane Reid is charged but acquitted due to lack of evidence.
March 2004: Sets fire to a classroom block at Cambridge High School. Reid decorated his room with pictures he took of the fire.
May 2004: Torches another classroom block at Forest Lake Primary School.
March 2005: A court hears of Reid's lonely life spent going to petrol stations and talking to attendants. His obsession with fire engines and police cars is also discussed.
May 2005: Prank-called 111 with a fake Indian accent. He said: "I'm an Indian. That's why I'm talking funny" before reporting a bogus blaze.
October 2005: Escapes from a supposedly secure facility near Cambridge.
December 2009: Sets fire to a classroom block at Wellington High School.
November 2011: After a year in custody, Justice Forrie Miller sets Reid free, saying jail is inappropriate. Instead, Miller says supervision is needed to minimise future risk.
January 2016: Assaulted a 91-year-old woman in Wellington.
July 2016: Set a classroom on fire at Hamilton's Fraser High School.