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Man started 'devastating fire' after row with pregnant girlfriend, court hears

PUBLISHED: 19:00 01 April 2019

Fire crews at the scene of the blaze in Halesworth Picture: Amy Smith/Archant.

Fire crews at the scene of the blaze in Halesworth Picture: Amy Smith/Archant.

Archant

A jealous Suffolk man started a devastating fire which caused hundreds of thousands of pounds damage to a town centre newsagents and adjoining buildings after his pregnant girlfriend walked out on him, it has been alleged.

Fire crews at the scene of the fire in Halesworth. Picture: Amy Smith/Archant.Fire crews at the scene of the fire in Halesworth. Picture: Amy Smith/Archant.

As Amy Clark, who was nearly eight months pregnant, walked away from the timber-framed flat above DC Patrick Newsagents in Market Place, Halesworth, Stephen Wilson was heard shouting that he would set fire to the premises if she didn’t go back, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, 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.

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

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 allegedly given her “a backhander” to the face resulting in her banging her head, said Mr Jackson.

The fire affected a newsagents on Market Place, Halesworth Picture: Nick ButcherThe fire affected a newsagents on Market Place, Halesworth Picture: Nick Butcher

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.

Fire crew attend the scene of a fire at a Newsagents on Market Place, Halesworth.
Picture: Nick ButcherFire crew attend the scene of a fire at a Newsagents on Market Place, Halesworth. Picture: Nick Butcher

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 cost of the damage was many hundreds of thousands of pounds,” said Mr Jackson.

Firefighters tackling the blaze at Halesworth. Picture: Amy SmithFirefighters tackling the blaze at Halesworth. Picture: Amy Smith

Wilson, 32, of Poppy Close, Loddon, has denied arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, two offences of assaulting Miss Clark by beating and driving a car taken without consent.

The jury has been told that Wilson has admitted breaching a restraining order banning him from contacting Miss Clark.

Firefighters tackling the blaze at Halesworth. Picture: Suffolk Fire and RescueFirefighters tackling the blaze at Halesworth. Picture: Suffolk Fire and Rescue

Following his arrest, he declined to answer questions.

The trial continues.

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