Man in court over hotel fire

A man has appeared in court charged with arson following a hotel fire in which Norfolk holidaymakers were among the guests that had to be evacuated.

Anthony Westhead, 63, of Holywell Avenue, Folkestone, Kent, appeared before North Devon Magistrates in Barnstaple today charged with arson with intent to endanger life.

More than 50 guests fled the building of the Tantons Hotel, in Bideford, Devon, and four were rescued from the roof after fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday.

Sixty firefighters were used to tackle the blaze on the third floor of the Grade II listed riverside hotel.

Among those staying at the hotel was a party travelling with Norwich-based company Sunrise Direct - the party included 15 people from Norfolk, six from Suffolk, seven from Cambridgeshire and 12 from Essex.

The Sunrise Direct party had been on the first night of a four night holiday when the blaze happened, but following the fire Sunrise Direct arranged for them to return home on Tuesday.

At today's court hearing Westhead did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody. He will next appear at Exeter Crown Court on June 17.

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