Jury retires to consider verdict in Halesworth blaze case

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

The jury in the trial of a man accused of starting a £2 million blaze which caused devastating damage to a Suffolk town centre newsagents and adjoining buildings after his pregnant girlfriend walked out on him has retired to consider its verdicts.

Stephen Wilson, 32, of Poppy Close, Loddon, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court where he denied arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, two offences of assaulting his partner by beating and driving a car taken without consent.

The jury retired to consider its verdicts on Thursday (April 4) and will return to court on Friday (April 5) to continue its deliberations.

It has been alleged that as his partner, who was eight months 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.

Andrew Jackson, prosecuting, described the relationship between Wilson and the 26-year-old 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 her 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.

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She 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 the loss of stock, cash, computers and business interruption was over £1 million and costs in relation to an adjoining building were estimated at £800,000.

Wilson chose not to give evidence during the trial.