Teenagers guilty of £90K beach hut arson

TWO teenagers from Essex have been found guilty of starting a series of fires that caused £90,000 worth of damage to more than 30 beach huts.

Elliot Furniss

TWO teenagers from Essex have been found guilty of starting a series of fires that caused £90,000 worth of damage to more than 30 beach huts.

Barrie Williams, formerly known as Barrie Gable, aged 18, of Audries Estate, Walton-on-the-Naze, was convicted of 19 counts of arson at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday.

At the same hearing, Aaron Boyce, also 18, of Almond Close, Clacton-on-Sea, was cleared of 10 of the 19 identical charges he faced but the jury unanimously found him guilty of the remaining nine.

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A third youth, aged 17, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and will be sentenced with Williams and Boyce on August 11.

The offences related to four separate fires started along the seafront in Frinton-on-Sea in the early hours of July 2 last year.

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They were started at about 4.30am and further damage was only avoided after the flames were spotted by a quick-thinking milkman who called the fire service.

During the trial the defendants both blamed each other and the third youngster for the starting the blazes, which damaged or destroyed a total of 31 huts, leaving many owners devastated.

Boyce was described to the jury as “snakey” but in his closing speech prosecutor David Wilson told the court that was “perhaps unfair” to the reptile, due to the way he had behaved since his arrest.

He also told them that Williams had lied throughout his interviews with police and changed his story several times - initially telling officers he had been at home in bed at the time when the fires were started.

But the court heard that after further questioning, he admitted being present and later concocting a cover story with his co-accused.

Throughout the trial Williams insisted he had only acted as a “lookout” while the others broke into and set fire to the huts - a version of events the jury did not accept.

Last night, Frinton mayor Terry Allen said the arson attack had left some hut owners facing “emotional trauma”.

He said: “I think the hut owners will be overjoyed that the persons doing it have been found and convicted. I'm sure they will be interested in what sentences they will get.

“For some it has not only cost them a lot of their hard earned money, but it has taken away the only enjoyment they have in their lives.”

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