Court told of sick animal sanctuary arson

Owner Mandy Leigh surveys the ruined building

Owner Mandy Leigh surveys the ruined building

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THE horrific details of how dozens of animals perished in a devastating arson attack have been revealed in court.

Around 26 rescue animals died in the fire at Easterleigh Animal Sanctuary in St Annes after Jordan Morgan and Karl Heaton’s went on a three-hour drunken rampage around the Fylde.

The pair caused £25,000 of damage at Easterleigh and set fire to the Fylde Scout headquarters on Heyhouses Lane, causing £40,000 of damage and destroying £14,000 worth of equipment.

A Volkswagen van on Clarendon Road and a garage on Church Road in St Annes were also set alight on the same night, causing up to £21,000.

The arsonists also tried to light a gas cylinder in a barn which may have caused an explosion.

During a sentencing hearing, Preston Crown Court heard the total damage ran into tens of thousands of pounds.

Morgan, 18, formerly of Bloomfield Road, South Shore, and Heaton, 23, of Smithy Lane, St Annes, had both admitted four offences of arson, plus one of attempted arson.

Jon Close, prosecuting, said an investigation found a fire had been deliberately started in a hay store at Easterleigh on Queensway and it spread quickly.

Some 16 hens, five cats, four kittens and a rabbit were all being cared for by the charity, which is run by animal lover Mandy Leigh, when they died.

The court was told the fire had a devastating effect and it was particularly traumatic for volunteers, who found an outbuilding ablaze when they arrived to open up for the day.

Volunteers worked around the clock during a clean up mission last year and residents have donated thousands of pounds to ensure the fire-ravaged sanctuary is renovated.

Mr Close said: “The Crown’s case is that the two defendants went about a mindless and dangerous spate of arson.

“By their own admission, both were extremely drunk.

“The distance from the starting point to the final offence was 2.1 kilometres.”

The court heard Morgan had been at a flat on St Alban’s Road in March last year when Heaton, who was celebrating his 22nd birthday, turned up unannounced.

The pair left around 2am and were seen by police running from an alley, leading away from Church Road.

Morgan and Heaton were said to have tried to blame each other for what happened that night.

Heaton described his co-defendant as a “nutcase” and said he was crazy and spontaneous.

Michelle Brown, defending for Morgan, said: “He is resigned and ready for a custodial sentence which will be in terms of years, rather than months.

“It was an impulsive and unplanned set of offences. It has to be accepted both were following each other’s lead.

“The victims had done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve the loss they suffered. The defendant himself has said he is horrified by what he did.”

Tom Lord, defending Heaton, said there had been an “orgy of arson” over a period of three-and-a-half hours.

He said: “The offences were abhorrent and distasteful.

“There is also the impact upon the victims, the impact on the community and the inconvenience caused.”

Morgan and Heaton were remanded in custody and will be sentenced at a later date.