Boatyard torched in revenge attack

A blaze at Norfolk boatyard which caused £175,000 worth of damage was a revenge attack by a man who was sacked from its cafe, a court heard. Robert Sambrook, 19, and fellow arsonist David Benbow, 22, were locked up for a total of five years after admitting starting the fire at Stalham.

A blaze at Norfolk boatyard which caused £175,000 worth of damage was a revenge attack by a man who was sacked from its cafe, a court heard.

Robert Sambrook, 19, and fellow arsonist David Benbow, 22, were locked up for a total of five years after admitting starting the fire at Richardson's yard at Stalham last year.

The pair at first denied causing the fire, which destroyed six boats, sinking four of them, and took firefighters three hours to put out, Norwich Crown Court was told. But they changed their stories when CCTV pictures showed them entering the yard.

Sambrook, of St Andrew's Close Norwich, lost his job at the yard cafe four days before the October 7 blaze, said Richard White, prosecuting.

He and Benbow, of Allen Meale Way, Stalham, went to the yard, where 400 boats - some hire fleet and some privately owned - were moored at the quayside. A holidaymaker saw smoke and flames at 11pm after two men were seen walking in the boatyard. Some boats were untied and initially four boats were on fire, but flames were spread by the breeze.

Firemen also had to retreat when a gas cylinder exploded. A boom was put across the water to stop diesel escaping into the river. Five of the six boats destroyed belonged to the boatyard, the other to a private owner. A further three were damaged.

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The insurance paid out £160,000 to the boatyard and £15,000 to the private owner.

Mr White said Sambrook lost his job four days earlier and wanted to get his own back. Cigarette lighters were used to set fire to curtains, which were put on top of mattresses. When interviewed, Benbow said it was a “joint effort”.

Michael Clare, defending Benbow, said: “The consequences went far beyond what they intended. They did not intend to cause so much damage.”

He was a full-time carer for his partner, who had an illness causing deafness and blindness, and arthritis from the waist down.

Katharine Moore, defending Sambrook, said neither of them intended the consequences of what they did. Sambrook acted stupidly and was sorry. “When in work he is no problem. When out of work he uses all sorts of substances and finds himself in all sorts of trouble,” she added.

Recorder John Brooke-Smith said previous offences, including criminal damage, meant he had no alternative but to send Sambrook to a young offenders' institution for three years.

Benbow, who was jailed for two years, was relatively young and has a previous offence for a driving matter, he added.