Teenager caused £500,000 fire spree

PUBLISHED: 09:09 24 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:26 03 July 2010

Damage: The chaos caused by the fire at Seletar Services.

Damage: The chaos caused by the fire at Seletar Services.

A TEENAGER behind a string of fires in Yarmouth caused more than £500,000 of damage and put lives at risk, including forcing more than 100 people to leave their homes, a court heard yesterday.

Wrecked: The scene outside the Seletar Services building in Great Yarmouth.

A TEENAGER behind a string of fires in Yarmouth caused more than £500,000 of damage and put lives at risk, including forcing more than 100 people to leave their homes, a court heard yesterday.

Steven Trudgill, 18, started a blaze at a workshop in Albert Road, Yarmouth, setting fire to a parked campervan.

The owner of the workshop, Bart de Saar, was asleep in the workshop when he was woken by the blaze which destroyed his premises as well as five vehicles and several giro planes, Norwich Crown Court was told.

Mr de Saar tried to tackle the blaze himself but it became too intense and his workshop was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived.

Mr de Saar has still not received any insurance payout and has not been able to return to work since the blaze.

Malcolm Robins, prosecuting, said the workshop was completely gutted along with the contents, adding that Mr de Saar had been left with “virtually nothing, only the clothes on his back.”

In an impact statement Mr de Saar said his life had been “left in limbo” and he had to live in bed and breakfast accommodation while still paying a mortgage on the fire-damaged property and now found it difficult to sleep because of the stress he was under.

About 100 people living in nearby homes also had to be evacuated and spend the night in the Marina Centre as a result of the fire which happened in the early hours of July 28 last year.

When arrested Trudgill admitted he had cycled off on his bike after starting the blaze and had not stayed to watch what happened. He only learned the full extent of the fire the next morning.

Trudgill, of Harbord Crescent, Yarmouth, admitted arson and asked for 12 other fires which he started in Yarmouth to be taken into consideration, including blaze at Seletar Services, a company which serves the offshore industry, where £500,000 worth of damage was caused.

Mr Robins said there were 50 gas cylinders on the premises and firefighters feared there could be an explosion.

At the height of the blaze flames were shooting 30ft into the air from the Queen's Road warehouse and thick smoke engulfed the neighbourhood.

Police also had to evacuate the nearest residents and firefighters took two hours to bring the blaze under control.

The court heard Trudgill had a previous conviction for arson in December 2007 when he set fire to an empty pub in Yarmouth and when police had asked him about this, he had volunteered the information about the other fires he had started.

Mr Robins said that Trudgill said he needed help and claimed he had an urge to set fire to things when he was in drink.

Katharine Moore, in mitigation, said a psychiatric report showed no significant mental illness behind his offending or apparent motivation.

Miss Moore said Trudgill was a vulnerable person and but for his confessions, the other fires he told police about would have gone undetected. She said the fire at the workshop had also had a devastating effect on Trudgill's life and his family.

Judge Philip Curl adjourned sentence until today so he could have longer to study reports on Trudgill.

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