Jury told of pair’s tragic animal arson

Easterleigh animal sanctuary in St Annes
Easterleigh animal sanctuary in St Annes
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A BLAZE which killed 25 animals at a Fylde coast sanctuary was part of an overnight arson spree, a jury has heard.

Staff showed up to work at Easterleigh in St Annes on March 23 and discovered a large blaze in a hay store, which appeared to have been burning for some time.

A 17-year-old youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has gone on trial at Preston Crown Court where he denies four charges alleging arson and one of attempted arson.

The jury was told how the youngster was one of two men who torched the out building, as well as targeting Fylde’s Scout HQ on Heyhouses Lane, a residential garage on Church Road and a Volkswagen van parked in a nearby street.

His alleged accomplice Karl Heaton, 22, of Smithy Lane, Ansdell, had already admitted all the charges, the court heard.

Louise Whaites, prosecuting, said the four incidents took place in an area measuring just under a mile and a half and was a joint enterprise between the two men.

She told the court how the youth had been at his partner’s address on St Alban’s Road, St Annes, the previous evening and Heaton had turned up with a crate of lager.

Things got a little heated and the youth was asked to leave. He did so around 2am and Heaton left as well.

The police were called and a description of the two men was circulated to local patrols in the town.

Within minutes, two people matching their descriptions were seen running from an alleyway.

While police were searching for them, flames were seen coming from the roof of a residential garage at the rear of an address on Church Road.

As the search continued, a fire was discovered in a Volkswagen van parked nearby.

Heaton’s fingerprints were found on an aerosol in the van. The youth’s DNA was allegedly found on a lager can in the vehicle.

Officers were still searching for the pair when firefighters were called to a fire at the Scout HQ at around 4.15am.

A fire was well alight in a maintenance building and it had spread to another building on the same site.

Police found the two men and took them into custody but were later called about the fire at Easterleigh, a sanctuary for abused or unwanted animals.

A fire investigator later said all the incidents had been started deliberately.

Miss Whaites told the court: “Staff found there was a large fire which had been underway and burning for what appeared to be some time.

“Unfortunately it started in a hay store that was also used to house some of the animals at the sanctuary. The fire had caused a considerable amount of damage.

“A number of animals had perished and the fire had almost burned out when the fire service attended.”

The court heard there had been an attempt to start a fire in another outbuilding on the same land where the sanctuary is.

A piece of burned material was found wrapped around a helium cylinder next to a highly-flamable propane canister.

The youth allegedly admitted he was present at the scene of the four fires and attempted fire, but blamed Heaton for actually starting them. He said he played no part in them.

But Miss Whaites added: “The Crown say they were in it together and it matters not who actually lit the flames which started each of the fires.”