A father-of-two today spoke of his two-year ordeal after being wrongfully accused of torching a Blackpool club.
Barry Griezans was yesterday cleared of two counts of arson at The Trades Club on Chadwick Street following a trial at Preston Crown Court.
The 31-year-old, of Sommerville Avenue, Staining, had denied the charges and was found not guilty by a jury following seven hours of deliberation.
Afterwards Mr Griezans, a Blackpool Lifeboatman who had been the club’s manager, said he could now “start his life afresh.”
He said: “For me, my wife and my family, it has been absolute hell for two years.
“It has been a constant wait to clear my name so to have it all over with now is a great feeling, and a huge weight off my shoulders.
“The worst thing was the thought of going to jail for something I didn’t do, and not seeing my kids grow up.”
Mr Griezans was arrested a month after the blaze which ripped through both floors of the club and destroyed the roof in the early hours of October 31, 2011.
More than 40 firefighters tackled the flames and around 60 residents had to be evacuated from nearby homes.
Mr Griezans added: “My wife Gemma and I had only been married a month when it happened.
“I was a self-employed maintenance man and all my tools were lost in the fire.
“That, together with the accusations hanging over me, mean I have not been able to find work.
“It was a massive shock when I was arrested – I had never been in trouble with the police before.
“Now we are just looking forward to starting life afresh and putting it behind us.
“My family and friends have supported me throughout, as have my colleagues at Blackpool Lifeboat, and that has meant a lot to me.”
There was crying in the public gallery from his supporters as the verdicts were delivered and Judge Robert Altham told him he could leave the dock.
Last July, Mr Griezans helped save the life of a swimmer who was pulled from the sea near South Pier by lifeboat crews after getting into difficulty.
The Trades Club, which was historically a meeting point for Blackpool Trades Council, was demolished following the blaze.
Det Con Alan Quanbrough, who led the case on behalf of Blackpool CID, said: “At this moment in time we are not looking for anyone in connection with the fire but if anyone has any information that may help us to reopen the case then I urge them to contact police on 101.”