A man whose £1m family kitchen firm went up in flames has admitted the recession was biting, but denied starting the fire.

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Justin Hindry, of Manor Farm Close, Drayton, is also accused of burning down his holiday caravan in Great Yarmouth seven months earlier.

The 42-year-old addressed Norwich Crown Court yesterday as the defence began in his trial, in which he denies two counts of arson and fraud charges.

The fire at Aylsham Bathroom and Kitchen Centre, in Burgh Road, Aylsham, took hold on June 27, 2012.

Asked about the trading conditions for the family firm, Hindry said: “It was the start of the recession and that did have an impact on sales.”

He employed nine staff, but had made redundancies and cut back on advertising.

Hindry was last to leave the site on the day of the fire, locking the gates after him, the jury heard.

Asked if he had been planning to start a fire at the business, he said: “No I was not.”

Nick Cotter, defending, addressed the caravan incident.

He said records from the company that runs the Grosvenor Casino in Yarmouth put Hindry at the nightspot on November 7, the night before issues with the caravan’s alarm. There was no record of when Hindry left.

Hindry denied that he stayed in Yarmouth overnight, or that he took a detour via the caravan on the journey home.

The fire happened around a week later, the court heard.

Hindry said he was at home in bed when he was woken by a phone call in the early hours.

The call was from a member of holiday park staff telling him about the fire, the court heard.

Hindry, a married man with three sons, aged 10, 12 and 14, said friends and family also had access to the caravan, but would always let him know before they planned to visit.

He said he did not know about the like-for-like insurance policy, and had only asked for a cash settlement after he was offered a replacement caravan he believed to be inferior.

Asked about the 15 CCTV cameras on the holiday park site, Hindry said he had never tried to avoid them or tried to work out which way they were facing.

He said he allowed police full access to his phone and business records as part of their investigation.

Explaining why he told arresting officers that he was “surprised you did not come sooner”, he said he had sensed the suspicion of loss adjusters.

The trial continues.

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