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Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Guru Nanak Sikh Templein Edinburgh (Image: Daily Record)

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Guru Nanak Sikh Templein Edinburgh (Image: Daily Record)

A man who has “issues” with religion has admitted setting fire to the doors of a Sikh temple and a church.

Paul Johnson used petrol to ignite the doors of Edinburgh’s Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and Leith Methodist Church this summer because he wanted to make a “political statement”.

He told police he wanted to watch the premises burn down and hoped to be arrested.

Johnson, 49, admitted two charges of willful fireraising, aggravated by religious prejudice, on August 28 when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday. He will be sentenced next month.

The court heard the attack on the Sikh temple , to the danger of life of a family inside, was unplanned and was only carried out when unemployed Johnson came across the building.

It also heard how, on the evening of August 27, Johnson bought a container and, later, fuel worth £3.51 from a local petrol station.

Shortly before 5am on August 28, a man heading to the temple to pray spotted that fire had taken hold on one side of one of the doors and immediately raised the alarm with a man sleeping inside in the family quarters.

The fire service was then alerted and used two engines, two high reach vehicles and 11 firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

Around a couple of hours later, the caretaker at Leith Methodist Church noticed a smell of petrol and burning and cleaned up the area around the front door after realising there was no fire damage of note.

The door of the Sikh temple in Edinburgh was set alight

The door of the Sikh temple in Edinburgh was set alight

He later contact police after hearing about the incident at the temple.

CCTV footage from the area around the church between 12.03am and 12.13am showed Johnson approaching the church door, with a flash of light then visible.

Footage from the temple from 12.38am to 1.07am revealed him then approaching the door with a jerry can and lighting a piece of paper.

He returned on two further occasions during that time to light more paper and throw it towards the door before running away.

Police arrested Johnson after spotting him in Leith in the early hours of August 30.

Asked about his involvement in the two fires, he immediately told officers: “I did it.”

Advocate depute Alan Cameron told the court: “He stated that around midnight he walked to the Methodist Church in Leith and poured fuel on the doors before using a lighter to set fire to pieces of paper which he threw on the fuel.

“He stated that a small fire started but quickly went out. He stayed in the immediate area for some time but no emergency services attended.”

Johnson then walked around Leith and, on seeing the Sikh temple, set fire to its front doors using the same method.

Mr Cameron continued: “He stated that a small fire caught and he stayed in the locus as he wanted to be arrested by the police, however no emergency services attended.

“The accused stated that his intention in buying the petrol was to start the fire at the Methodist church and that the fire-raising at the Sikh temple was not planned and was only carried out when he came across the building.

“The accused was asked as to his motivation for the fires and stated that he was looking to make a political statement, but would not provide further details.

“When asked whether this was religiously motivated he stated that he has no issue with any particular religion but his issues are with religion and God in general.

“The accused was asked what his intention was by setting fire to the building and he stated that he wanted to watch them burn down.”

Johnson, listed as a prisoner in Edinburgh, has a previous conviction for culpable and reckless conduct, which earned him a four-month jail sentence in 2017.

Judge Lord Boyd deferred sentencing in the case until November 15.

Daily Record

A FAR-right supporter who set fire to Newport’s Masonic Lodge and Bassaleg secondary school, and daubed swastikas and racist slogans on buildings across the city, has been jailed for a total of six years.

Austin Ross, 23, carried out the two arson attacks and his spree of hate-fuelled criminal damage during May this year.

The Riverfront Theatre, Maindee primary school, Gwent Probation Service’s Lower Dock Street offices, and the Bethel Community Church were among his other targets.

Ross, of Romney Close, St Julians, Newport, carried out the attacks, said Judge Jeremy Jenkins, “out of sheer hatred and malice”, based on a “perverted view of race and religion”.

Ross pleaded guilty last month to 15 charges, including two of arson.

He began by sticking a racially offensive poster,, and spray painting a swastika, on a window at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport, between May 2 and May 5.

The poster, along with several others Ross subsequently stuck to buildings in Newport, referenced the neo-Nazi System Resistance Network (SRN).

On May 4, the Bethel Community Church was targeted with posters and swastikas, as was Maindee primary school, where parents removed posters and handed them in to the school.

The school was targeted again on May 8 and May 25, but Ross had in the interim stuck posters and daubed swastikas on a wall at the Newport Centre.

Between May 25-30 he targeted the Gwent Probation Service building on Lower Dock Street with a spray painted far right message.

And on May 28, racist graffiti and a swastika were daubed on a wall at the University of South Wales campus on Usk Way.

Ross’ criminal activities then took an even more sinister turn.

On the night of May 28 he posted a flammable liquid through the letterbox at the Masonic Lodge in Lower Dock Street and set fire to it – an act caught on CCTV – causing £38,000 of damage.

And on the same night he caused around £20,000 of damage to a classroom at Bassaleg School after setting fire to a window blind.

Both buildings were also daubed with racist graffiti.

Police issued CCTV images of a man clad in black clothing, to try to track down the perpetrator.

Acting on a tip-off, they arrested Ross at an address in Grosvenor Road, Bassaleg, on June 5.

The Bassaleg and the Romney Close addresses were searched, and items found included cardboard swastika stencils and neo-Nazi posters.

Defence counsel Harry Baker said several references submitted on behalf of Ross showed “a different side” to him.

But sentencing him, Judge Jenkins was scathing of Ross’ crimes.

“You daubed swastikas and other highly offensive literature on schools, a church, a theatre, a footbridge and other buildings,” he said.

“You deliberately set fire to the Masonic Lodge and Bassaleg secondary school.

“Your actions were not born of some mental disorder, but out of hatred and malice based upon your perverted view of race and religion, and others dissimilar to yourself.

“That, in a civilised society is as abhorrent as it is impossible to comprehend.”

Ross was sentenced to three years in prison on each arson charge, to run consecutively.

He was also sentenced to six months on each of 13 charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. These will run concurrently to the arson sentences.

Speaking after the senetencing hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Nicholas Wilkie, of Gwent Police, said: “The offences committed by Ross in Newport in May of this year were very serious, and understandably resulted in concern and distress throughout our community.

“There is no place for hate crime in Gwent, and we will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to this type of offending.

“We are committed to ensuring our neighbourhoods are welcoming and safe places for everyone, and any crime motivated by racial, sexual, or any other prejudice, will be investigated thoroughly and any offender dealt with robustly.

“We would encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed an incident or crime that they perceive to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, to report to us directly on 101 or 999, online at http://www.report-it.org or through Victim Support on 0300 30 31 982.”

Cerys Beresford-Evans of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Ross spread his racist messages around Newport by causing damage and destruction to buildings.

“Hate crime has no place in a civilised society and has a devastating impact on not only individuals, but on communities.

“The CPS will continue to work with our partners in the criminal justice system to address all forms of hate crime.”

South Wales Argus

Members of a South Texas mosque that was set ablaze last year went up to shake hands and hug prosecutors in a federal courtroom Monday.

Just moments before,12 jurors had announced they’d found the man accused of setting the fire guilty.

“Yes,” each said when asked one by one if that was their true verdict.

The trial of Marq Vincent Perez, who was indicted last year of a hate crime related to the Jan. 28, 2017 fire at the Victoria Islamic Center, began last week at the federal courthouse.

It took the jury about three hours of deliberations before finding him guilty of three felony counts including damage to a religious property, use of fire to commit a federal felony and possession of a destructive device related to an earlier incident.

 Construction on the new mosque is about 80-85 percent complete. Eleanor Dearman/Caller-Times


Construction on the new mosque is about 80-85 percent complete.
Eleanor Dearman/Caller-Times

“No group anywhere in the United States of America should be subjected to such hate crimes,” said Omar Rachid, who handles community and public relations for the mosque.

“I think what the jury has done today, this afternoon, is send a message loud and clear that such behavior and such crimes will not be tolerated,” he continued.

U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey will decide Perez’s sentence at an Oct. 2 hearing. The date could coincide with the opening of the newly built mosque.

“God works in mysterious ways, and maybe one of those ways he has in store for us is that the sentencing could very well take place at about the time we take possession of our new mosque,” Rachid said.

Perez, wearing a grey shirt and dark rimmed glasses, sat beside his attorney Mark Di Carlo Monday as federal prosecutors presented their closing arguments to a jury. His trial was expected to last around two weeks, but the presentation of evidence concluded Friday.

A video clip of the burning mosque played on a large screen in the courtroom as prosecutor Saeed Ahmed Mody began presenting his case.

“His intention was for damage and destruction, and that’s exactly what he did,” Mody said.

 Marq Vincent Perez, 26, is escorted from the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building after a pretrial hearing. Perez, of Victoria, is accused of intentionally setting a fire that destroyed a mosque at the Islamic Center of Victoria in January 2017. Contributed// Qiling Wang, Victoria Advocate


Marq Vincent Perez, 26, is escorted from the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building after a pretrial hearing. Perez, of Victoria, is accused of intentionally setting a fire that destroyed a mosque at the Islamic Center of Victoria in January 2017.
Contributed// Qiling Wang, Victoria Advocate

He argued it was Perez’s goal to “terrorize” the Muslim community. He described the Victoria Islamic Center as a place where the community would gather for joyous occasions — weddings and weekly potlucks — as well as sad occasions.

On the trial’s first day, the jury heard from a federal prosecutor who painted Perez as having an “absolute hatred” of Muslims. Sharad Sushil Khandelwal, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Perez became involved with a militia group on Facebook and began forming what he called “rogue units.”

On Jan. 15 Perez went on a “training mission” to throw an “improvised bomb” into a car, he said. After burglarizing the mosque with a juvenile identified as K.R. on Jan. 22, the two returned on Jan. 28 but this time, Perez set the mosque on fire, Khandelwal argued last week.

 Authorities have determined arson is responsible for the fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center mosque on Jan. 28, 2017. Contributed photo/ATF


Authorities have determined arson is responsible for the fire that destroyed the Victoria Islamic Center mosque on Jan. 28, 2017.
Contributed photo/ATF

But during his closing arguments, Di Carlo maintained his client’s innocence. He told jurors that the juveline’s testimony is hearsay and promoted the idea that he was not a credible witness.

He also categorized the Jan. 15 incident as separate from the Jan. 28 burglary and fire. Khandelwal said due to their belief the June 15 incident was done as a “training mission,” the two crimes were connected. He also said Perez’s DNA was found on the “improvised bomb.”

The jury was shown Facebook messages that prosecutors say show Perez’s hate of Muslims.

“He can’t keep his mouth shut and he can’t keep his fingers off the laptop either,” Khandelwal said.

The jury also listened to testimony that showed Perez’s phone contained photos of the burning mosque and that items that were stolen from the mosque were found at Perez’s residence, according to prosecutors.

Di Carlo said the government “cherry picked and oh so carefully presented” their evidence against Perez.

“We only have what the government allowed us to see,” Di Carlo said.

He also suggested that Perez was “profiled” because he’s conservative, had a brief stint in the military and was allegedly a part of the militia group.

Di Carlo flipped through a copy of the Quran that had been admitted into evidence.

“And do not cover the truth with falsehood,” he read, asking the jury to find Perez not guilty.

He told reporters after the trial’s conclusion that the entirety of Perez’s social media postings and interview with investigators weren’t allowed to be entered into evidence at trial and that “only things that were adverse to his interests came in.”

Di Carlo said he was surprised by the jury’s decision.

“As is stated throughout the trial, we do not believe that the fact that the defendant disliked Muslims is proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Di Carlo said. “Again, as stated during the trial, there was issues regarding his concern about Middle-Eastern people, about terrorists, about illegal immigrants and the mention of religion was very, very minimal.”

“I hope that point was made to the jurors,” he continued. “Perhaps it wasn’t made well enough.”

Di Carlo said Perez took the verdict “very somberly.”

U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick lauded the conviction as a commitment to protect religious liberty.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the religious liberty of all people and their ability to practice their faith without being the target of this kind of dangerous activity.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said the department ” is committed to holding hate crimes perpetrators accountable under the law.”

“All people are entitled to live free from violence and fear, regardless of their religion or place of worship,” Gore said. “Perez’s actions were criminal, unlawful and dangerous.”

Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the hate crime count and up to 10 years for possessing an unregistered destructive device, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. For use of a fire to commit a felony, the penalty is consecutive and he faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Each count carries a possible $250,000 fine.

And as Perez awaits a decision on how long he’ll be behind bars, members of the mosque are looking forward to opening the doors of their new mosque.

Construction is about 80-85 percent done. They are hoping to have it opened in September or early October, Rachid said.

One of the Victoria Islamic Center board members said despite the fire, they want the mosque to be a place that his open to the community.

“The last thing we want to do is for evil to win by making us … be separated from our community,” Abe Ajrami said.

He extended thoughts and prayers to Perez, adding that maybe Perez can use his time in jail to learn about Islam. He also extended prayers to Perez’s family.

“There is no hard feeling here, and I can tell you in the name of the Muslim community, Mr. and Mrs. Perez are invited to the open house.”

At the end of the day, what’s more important than the verdict is how the community came together following the fire, Ajrami said.

“That’s what gives me hope,” he said. “Whether Mr. Perez is out or in, that’s one person comparing to thousands in Victoria who made a clear statement that they are against the burning of any place of worship.”

Caller Times

A MAN who spray-painted swastikas around the city and set fire to buildings including a school and a church over the course of a month has pleaded guilty to all charges.

Austin Ross, 23, of Romney Close in Newport, pleaded guilty to 15 counts in total at a brief hearing in Cardiff Crown Court today.

The charges relate to a series of swastikas and racially aggravated graffiti and two arson attacks in Newport between May 2 and May 31 this year.

Two swastikas appeared on a wall and post at the University of South Wales building in Newport city centre during the late May bank holiday weekend.

Alongside one of the swastikas was a message apparently written in support of far right activist Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who co-founded the English Defence League.

Today, Ross admitted nine counts of causing racially aggravated damage to property.

He owned up to damaging the windows of the Riverfront Theatre in the city centre on May 3, the front door of the Bethel Baptist Church in Bassaleg and a school sign belonging to Maindee Primary School on May 4, as well as a footbridge belonging to Newport City Council on May 5.

Ross also targeted Maindee Primary school a second time on May 28, the Gwent Probation Service building on Lower Dock Street between May 27 and May 31, the University of South Wales Newport campus and the walls of the Masonic Hall on May 28.

Four other counts of racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress were admitted by Ross between May 2 and May 5.

The charges read out in court noted his actions were based on the membership or perceived membership of a particular racial group.

He also admitted two counts of arson, setting fire to the front doors and hallway of the Masonic Hall in Lower Dock Street on May 28 and destroying a classroom at Bassaleg secondary school on May 29.

Judge Eleri Rees, addressing Ross’ legal representative Harry Baker, warned that the defendant was “not helping himself” by refusing to cooperate, and added she would order a psychiatric assessment before sentencing.

“A more sinister interpretation can be put on his behaviour because he has not explained his actions,” said Judge Rees.

“It does make it difficult for anybody to second guess that there might be a background that could help explain this.

“He doesn’t help himself in that way.

“I’m going to order a psychiatric assessment and we will set up a time table for sentencing.”

Addressing the defendant, Judge Rees added: “I would encourage you to try to cooperate and reflect upon what could be of assistance to you.”

Ross will now appear in court on August 21 for sentencing.

South Wales Argus.


A BRITISH National Party member has been jailed for five years for a string of racist attacks on Asian families in a year-long terror campaign.

Former Territorial Army soldier Terry Collins, 27, who was a sheet metal worker for Hotchkiss Ductwork, on Station Road Industrial Estate, Hailsham, hurled fireworks through letterboxes of his victims’ homes and smashed their windows with stones.

He also used a hammer to smash their car windows and a Stanley knife to slash their tyres, causing more than 4,000 worth of damage and forcing one family to flee their home.

Collins, who targeted Asian families living near him in Seaside, repeatedly sent take-always to his victims’ homes to ‘wind them up.’

Police launched an operation the size of a murder inquiry and made more than 600 house-to-house inquiries in a bid to catch him.

Officers who were lying in wait outside the Royal Parade home of one of Collins’ targets eventually caught him red-handed as he threw a lump of concrete through the window.

Following his arrest in possession of a lock-knife, officers found fireworks and paint in Collins flat identical to those used in the attacks.

They also found bullets which he stole from the army and a BNP magazine and three medium-sized pebbles in his car.

Lewes Crown Court heard how he had told a colleague: “Vote for BNP. Blair is too soft.’

Prosecutor Stephen Shay told the court, ‘Between September, 2003, and November, 2004, three ethnic minority families in Eastbourne were subjected to a series of racially-motivated crimes.

‘These crimes mainly but not always involved criminal damage. From the outset the motive for the offences was extreme right wing political views that he held.

‘In the most serious incident, shortly after midnight on March 27, 2004, Ali Rostam heard shattering glass downstairs at his home in Eshton Road where he lives with his three children. He was upstairs in bed.

‘When he went to inspect he could smell burning coming from the hallway and was aware of his house filling with smoke.

‘The porch carpet was burning and a large brick with a firework attached was on the floor alongside the shattered glass.

‘Mr Rostam was able to put the fire out by stamping on the carpet. His family were understandable deeply distressed by this incident.

‘Afterwards they were re-housed and there were no further attacks on the property.’

The court heard how he also also attacked the homes and cars of newsagent Praful Patel in Seaside and Ajmul Owasil in Royal Parade.

Sheet metal worker Collins, of Eshton Road, pleaded guilty to arson and racially-aggravated harassment and criminal damage.

He also admitted possession of ammunition and a bladed article and asked for 11 further offences or racially-aggravated criminal damage to be taken into account.

He was questioned for five days and told police in interview he never intended to hurt anyone and only wanted to intimidate his victims.

He said he was driven to his victims’ homes by an accomplice he refused to name and was drunk when he committed the offences.

He said he attacked his victims’ property because he thought they were asylum seekers and immigrants.

The court heard he has a previous conviction for a drunken assault on one of his victims, Mr Patel.

Julian Dale, defending, told the court Collins joined the BNP two years ago after he and a friend were attacked by an gang of youths from an ethnic minority in Manchester.

He said, ‘That appears to have been the spur which put him in the sphere of the BNP. He was specifically targeted by one or two very forceful and extreme individuals.

‘He was subjected to a brain-washing process and was exposed to extreme far right propaganda and extremely far right documentaries.

‘Pressure was put on him to participate in these offences and even more extreme offences but he did not do so.

‘It was only once he was arrested that he had a chance to reflect and realise just how far he had slipped under the influence of certain individuals and how disgraceful he had behaved.

‘He has shown considerable remorse and has sought to make apologies through the officers in the case to the families he has distressed so much.

‘He has completely turned his back on both individuals and the organisations that led him to commit these crimes. He does not pose a continuing risk.”

Afterwards, Farida Owasil, 33, told how she came under attack at the home she shares with husband Ajmul, 43, daughter Salwa, aged six and son Ashraf, aged two.

The first attack came when a rock came through their living room window and they went outside the house to find their car had been vandalised.

After the first incident the couple’s home was targeted by Collins for repeated attacks.

Farida said, ‘We have no idea why he has picked us. We do not know him and can only presume that he saw us go in and out of our house.

‘We were just watching television when we heard the whole of the window pane smash. Our car was also attacked. Two tyres were slashed, the side mirror was broken and it was spray painted.

‘We were attacked about another six or seven times. He would always strike at around midnight.’

Farida shares the home with her brother-in-law Ahmed, 48, his wife Dawn, 44, and the couple’s two children. The four adults in the house run a nearby nursing home.

She said, ‘By the end of this we were not comfortable living in the house. It really put us in fear not knowing what was going to happen next.

‘The attacks were getting worse and worse. He is a dangerous man.

‘You feel you are being targeted because of the colour of your skin. We have lived in Eastbourne for 15 years and never had a problem with racism before.’

Mr Patel, 55, and wife Minaxi, 50, also came under attack at their shop and four-bedroom home.

Fireworks were hurled through the home they share with son Bhavik, 9, and daughters Bhumika, 24, Hena, 22, and Herkia, 20.

Their car and house windows were also smashed and tyres.

Mrs Patel said, ‘He made my family’s lives hell. Every night my son wakes up and comes into my room because he fears this man is going to kill us.

‘I fear it as well because the police told us he had live ammunition. I think his intention was to kill us. He could have blown us up.

‘If he comes out is he going to do the same? He is a danger to the public. I still have nightmares because I hear a noise and I think he is back again. It gave us peace of mind when he was arrested. My neighbours didn’t like what was happening. They were really annoyed because we are nice people.’

Bhavik said, ‘It upset me because all my stuff is by the window and I was cold with the window broken. Nobody else is going to bang the window now. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because of the noise. I often sleep downstairs.’

Eastbourne Herald

From 2005.

A NAZI-sympathiser who threatened to petrol bomb mosques after the Manchester Arena attack and who had an array of medieval weapons at his home has been jailed for eight years.

Hitler-obsessive Liam Seabrook, 31, told his probation officer he planned to kill Muslims in a series of text messages four days after 22 people were murdered at the Ariana Grande concert.

Hitler-obsessive Liam Seabrook, 31, told his probation officer he planned to kill Muslims in a series of text messages four days after 22 people were murdered at the Ariana Grande concert.

The judge at Teesside Crown Court branded him “dangerous” and imposed an extended sentence.

When police went to his home in Thornaby, Teesside, they found petrol in washing up liquid bottles and crude home-made wooden weapons with screws and razor blades sticking out of them.

One was likened by Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, to a fasces – a weapon carried by Roman magistrates made from sticks with blades attached.

He said the weapons were adapted to cause “significant injuries” and were “medieval style weaponry”.

When police went to Liam Seabrook’s home crude home-made wooden weapons with screws and razor blades sticking out of them

Some were located close to his front door, the court heard.

When cable ties were found at Seabrook’s flat, he explained he had them “in case he needed to kidnap somebody”, Mr Abrahams said.

The chilling texts were sent in response to a routine inquiry from his probation officer.

He told her: “After Monday (the day of the Manchester bombing), Muslims and mosques need to be petrol bombed.”

She asked if he intended to carry out the threat, and Seabrook replied: “If something happens, something happens. By that time it would be (too late) to be stopped, like the Muslim attack on Manchester.”

Bizarrely, he then told her he had passed a forklift drivers’ course.

Mr Abrahams said Seabrook sent racist texts and expressed views about killing Muslims.

Psychiatrists found later he was fascinated by the Third Reich and Hitler in particular.

He had a previous conviction for arson, writing racist graffiti and leaving a note in a library calling for immigrants to be banned from using it.

Alex Bousfield, defending, said there was no suggestion Seabrook had ever taken his weapons out of his flat and that they were more like “bizarre ornaments”.

Seabrook was isolated and stockpiled goods so he would not have to leave his home, the court heard.

Mr Bousfield said: “He has really seen the outside world through media reports and he has picked and chosen those he has taken on board.

“He has become fearful of almost anyone except white males, really.”

Seabrook, who has been diagnosed with a mixed personality disorder, admitted making threats to kill, malicious communication, making threats to destroy property and having articles with intent to destroy property.

He was sentenced via a videolink from prison.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton sentenced Seabrook to eight years custody with an extended two year licence period.

After deeming him dangerous, the judge said: “The weapons were very basic, nevertheless of a very violent type which could have resulted in extreme injury, if not death, if put to use.”

He made an order banning Seabrook from going within 200 metres of a mosque when he is released and said Seabrook had a long history of espousing right wing ideology.

Sharon Elves, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Liam Seabrook made a clear threat to burn down mosques and attack Muslims in what he believed was ‘retaliation’ for terrorist attacks that had occurred within the UK in previous months.

“From the cache of homemade weapons found at his home, including clubs covered with razor blades and bottles of carefully mixed accelerant for starting fires, it was also clear that he possessed the means to carry out his threat.

“The Crown Prosecution Service has worked closely with Cleveland Police to build a robust case against Liam Seabrook, leaving him with little option but to plead guilty to these very serious offences.”

Detective Constable Gerri Harris, from Stockton Operational Crime Team, said: “The sentence today sends a clear warning that if you make threats to harm people and create dangerous weapons in order to do so, there will be serious consequences.

“Liam Seabrook is clearly a dangerous man and the fact that he will remain in prison means that the public are protected from him for some time.”

Northern Echo

Passengers had to be airlifted to safety as smoke filled the ferry’s corridors when Boden Hughes torched his cabin while smoking cannabis

Arsonist Boden Hughes has been jailed for 11 years after setting a North Sea ferry on fire while smoking cannabis in his cabin.

Hughes was so drunk he could barely walk or talk as he travelled to Amsterdam with friends aboard a DFDS ferry.

After being ejected from the ship’s casino for being too intoxicated, he went back to cabin number 568 alone and, as he tried to light a cannabis bong, the room went up in flames.

Damage caused by fire started on DFDS ferry by Boden Hughes

Damage caused by fire started on DFDS ferry by Boden Hughes

The crew were unable to bring the blaze under control using fire extinguishers and only the ship’s sprinkler system managed to douse the fire.

Many of the 946 passengers on board, including children and a pregnant woman, began to panic as smoke filled the narrow corridors of the ship.

A total of 27 people needed medical treatment for smoke inhalation while six passengers, including the pregnant woman, had to be winched to safety by a helicopter.

The drama unfolded around 25 miles out to sea aboard the King Seaways ferry, on December 28 last year.

As Hughes was jailed for that and a separate offence of stealing railway cable, it emerged the fire had left DFDS £800,000 out of pocket.

Judge James Goss QC, at Newcastle Crown Court, told him: “Passengers had to be evacuated from their cabins and there was panic and children were screaming.

“The fire caused enormous danger and panic and the total cost of the fire was £800,000.

“It was a spectacular piece of recklessness committed by a drunk man on bail at the time and the consequences could have been disastrous.

“Fires on a ship are even more serious than those on land because escape routes are limited and the stability of the vessel can be affected by the water used to put it out.”

The court heard Hughes, his girlfriend and others made a last minute decision to travel to Holland between last Christmas and New Year.

They took a bottle of vodka and drank that and other alcohol on board the ship after departing from North Shields.

Hughes then went off on his own for an hour, visiting the casino and consuming more drink.

Around 10pm he was trying to get back into his cabin but went to the wrong room. A member of security spotted him walking in a “zig zag fashion” and helped him back to his cabin.

Prosecutor Ian Lawrie QC said: “It was not easy to get him to the cabin, he had to keep steadying himself against the deck and walls.

“Eventually they got him in the cabin and it was within one minute or so that the fire alarm was activated on the main bridge.

“The response crew were asked to go to the deck and they found the corridor full of smoke.

“People were yelling and pushing each other in anticipation of the evacuation. One witness tells how she had to be winched into a helicopter while pregnant.”

Half-naked Hughes was partially out of his cabin and sprawled on the floor. When security picked him up he became aggressive and refused to do as he was told.

He was taken to another deck, where he then started fighting with James Curry, a friend of his.

In front of other, already terrified passengers, including children, the bare-chested pair started hitting each other and Curry also hit a member of security.

The pair were eventually detained and thrown in the ship’s cells as the captain aborted the trip and headed back to Tyneside.

The court heard DFDS had to pay £80,000 for repairs, £30,000 deviation costs, £25,000 medical evacuation costs, £475,000 for passenger liabilities, lost £170,000 in revenue and had to pay £25,000 legal costs.

Hughes, 27, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland, admitted arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and affray for the fight with Curry. He got nine years for that plus two years for stealing copper cable from the rail network along with others.

Curry, 29, of Calshott Road, Sunderland, admitted assaulting a crew member during the fracas, threatening behaviour and the copper cable theft. He got three years and three months prison.

Christopher Morrison, for Hughes, said: “The person most at risk from this act of errant stupidity was the defendant.

“He wants to say he is extremely sorry, especially to those who had to be airlifted.”

Jane Foley, for Curry, said: “He became involved in a fight because of Hughes’ involvement with the incident which led to the fire.”

Newcastle Chronicle

boden