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Arsonist behind devastating three fires jailed for 16 months

PUBLISHED: 08:44 30 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:27 30 June 2018

Stuart Steele was jailed for 16 months for arson, attempted theft and criminal damage and possession of a bladed article. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary

Stuart Steele was jailed for 16 months for arson, attempted theft and criminal damage and possession of a bladed article. Picture: Norfolk Constabulary

Norfolk Constabulary

An arsonist who started a series of devastating fires in Fakenham over a three day period has been jailed for 16 months.

The damage left after the arson attack at Fakenham Rugby Club. Picture: ADAM LAZZARI.The damage left after the arson attack at Fakenham Rugby Club. Picture: ADAM LAZZARI.

Stuart Steele, 24, started a blaze at Fakenham Rugby Club, in which he deliberately dragged a gas cylinder to a dugout at the Field Lane site causing an explosion heard by nearby residents, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Steele also started a fire at the Fakenham Connect offices, on Oak Street, causing more than £42,000 worth of damage as well as setting fire to a storage container belonging to Little Angels Pre-School, at Trap Lane, in which play equipment, worth about £10,000 was destroyed.

Steele was finally arrested after he was caught attempting to steal charity boxes at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve.

Ian James, prosecuting, said Steele was behind the series of fires in Fakenham, over a three day period in January, this year.

He said he was arrested shortly after he had started the fire at the rugby club, on January 6 which caused £3,000 worth of damage.

Mr James said Steele was also behind an earlier fire at the Fakenham Connect offices, which is owned by North Norfolk District Council and houses a number of community organisations. He said fire and smoke caused £42,169 worth of damage as well as disruption to local services.

He said Steele also set fire to a container at the Little Angels Pre-School, destroying toys and outside play equipment which had been put in storage over the Christmas period for security.

Mr James said Steele was arrested on January 6, when he was found hiding barefoot in undergrowth and was discovered to be in possession of four knives.

Steele admitted arson, criminal damage, attempted theft and possession of a bladed article .

Jailing him for 16 months, Judge Katharine Moore accepted Steele had a number of personal and mental health difficulties but said matters were so serious only custody could be imposed.

She said that an aggravating feature had been the explosion he caused: “It makes it more serious that you used this gas cylinder.”

Duncan O’Donnell, for Steele said: “He deeply regrets what he has done.”

He said Steele had been a promising young man but had been suffering from a breakdown at the time of the offences.

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