Blaze at Halesworth newsagents caused nearly £2million of damage, court told

Firefighters and police at the scene of the fire in Halesworth Picture: Nick Butcher

Firefighters and police at the scene of the fire in Halesworth Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Archant

A devastating blaze which destroyed a Suffolk town centre newsagents and spread to an adjoining building caused nearly £2 million damage, a court has heard

After the fire in a timber-framed flat above DC Patrick newsagents in the Market Place, Halesworth, the building and neighbouring premises known as The Mansion House were both declared structurally unsafe, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

The cost of rebuilding the premises containing the newsagents was estimated to be £725,000 while the cost in relation to loss of stock, cash, computers and business interruption was estimated at more than £276,000, said Andrew Jackson, prosecuting.

He said the estimated rebuilding cost of the Mansion House and loss in respect of computers and business interruption was estimated to be £800,000.

Before the court is Stephen Wilson, 32, of Poppy Close, Loddon, who has denied arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, two offences of assault by beating and driving a car taken without consent.

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The court has heard that Wilson had been living in a flat above Patrick’s newsagents with his partner Amy Clark.

On June 11 Wilson, who had been drinking, had allegedly given Miss Clark “a backhander” to the face during a row resulting in her banging her head.

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Miss Clark left the flat and as she walked away Wilson was allegedly heard threatening to start a fire at the flat if she didn’t go back.

Mr Jackson claimed that after Wilson allegedly started the fire at around 6pm it had spread quickly with “devastating” consequences to neighbouring properties including the newsagents beneath the flat.

Fire investigator Russell Punchard told the court that firefighters who attended the blaze had entered the flat wearing breathing apparatus and had seen several pockets of fire.

The firefighters had been forced to leave the premises when part of the building collapsed and efforts to extinguish the blaze and stop it spreading had continued from outside the premises.

He said the investigation into the blaze had been hampered by the building being structurally unsound but in his opinion the origin of the blaze was suspicious because of the multiple pockets of fire.

However, during cross-examined by defence counsel Ronan McCann he said he couldn’t discount an accidental cause of the blaze such as a candle.

Wilson chose not to give evidence in the trial which continues.

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