GUILTY: Two convicted of torching Prom hotel

Fire at Palm Beach Hotel on the Promenade
Fire at Palm Beach Hotel on the Promenade

Two men have been found guilty of torching a seafront hotel.

Jurors found Allan Smith, 39, and David Phayer, 40, were behind the blaze at the derelict Palm Beach Hotel on South Beach on June 4, 2014, which led to residents evacuated from their homes in the early hours of the morning.

The intruders were arrested after being seen climbing out of the window of the blazing hotel as flames took hold on the top floor.

They admitted they went into the empty hotel looking for light fittings to steal for Phayer’s flat, but had insisted they left when they heard footsteps coming from above.

Smith admitted he had lied to the police, initially claiming he had not planned to steal from the hotel when he and Phayer broke in through a rear window.

But both men insisted they did not know about the fire when they fled the building.

However jurors at Preston Crown Court rejected their version of events and convicted both men of arson after less than four hours of deliberations..

A probe by fire chiefs found a fire had been started in a wardrobe on the third floor.

Smith, of Millington Avenue, South Shore, and Phayer, of Burlington Road, South Shore, will be sentenced on March 31 after the judge adjourned proceedings for pre sentence reports.

At its height, there were 12 fire engines at the scene and 70 firefighters battling the blaze.

The fire spread and developed quickly, heightened by the wind coming in from the sea.

The flames were finally out by around 5am, after part of the hotel’s roof collapsed - but not before around 30 residents from Clifton Drive, which runs behind the hotel, were evacuated to South Shore Academy, on St Annes Road, in the early hours,