Man found guilty of starting £1.8m blaze after his pregnant girlfriend left him
- Credit: Archant
A man accused of starting a £1.8million blaze which caused devastating damage to a Suffolk town centre newsagents and adjoining buildings after his pregnant girlfriend walked out on him has been convicted by a jury.
Before Ipswich Crown Court was Stephen Wilson, 32, of Poppy Close, Loddon, who had denied arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, two offences of assaulting his partner Amy Clark by beating and driving a car taken without consent.
He was found guilty of arson, driving a car taken without consent and one of the offences of assaulting Miss Clark by beating.
He was cleared of the other offence of assault by beating.
Wilson had earlier admitted two offences of breaching a restraining order banning him from contacting Miss Clark.
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Judge John Devaux adjourned sentence until next month for a pre-sentence report to address the issue of dangerousness.
Prosecutor Andrew Jackson described the arson as an “extremely petulant, dangerous act” and said that in addition to the financial impact on newsagent David Patrick the blaze had had an impact on his health.
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During the trial the court heard that as Miss Clark, who was heavily pregnant, walked away from the timber-framed flat above DC Patrick Newsagents in Market Place, Halesworth, that she shared with Wilson he threatened to set fire to the premises if she didn’t go back.
Mr Jackson described the relationship between Wilson and 26-year-old Miss Clark as “turbulent” and said that in March 2017 a court made an order banning him from contacting her or going to Halesworth.
Despite the order the couple had got back together but the arguments had continued and on June 11 Wilson, who had been drinking, accused Miss Clark of deleting text messages on her phone before he could read them.
He had given her “a backhander” to the face resulting in her banging her head, said Mr Jackson.
Miss Clark left the flat with some friends and as she walked away Wilson was heard threatening to start a fire at the flat if she didn’t go back.
“It wasn’t an idle threat and within minutes he made good his threat,” alleged Mr Jackson.
He claimed that after Wilson allegedly started the fire at around 6pm it had spread quickly, despite the efforts of the fire brigade, with “devastating” consequences to neighbouring properties including the newsagents beneath the flat.
The court heard that the cost of rebuilding the newsagents as well of loss of stock, cash, computers and business interruption was over £1 million and similar costs in relation to adjoining premises was estimated at £800,000.
Wilson chose not to give evidence during the trial.