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21 December 2012, 14:13
Two men have today been found guilty of burning down a 400 year-old wedding venue causing £4.5m worth of damage.
Mark Hall, 28, and Thomas Richardson, 27, both of Pipers Close, Haverhill, set fire to Chilford Hall, in Linton, in the early hours of June 13 this year.
Hall was today (Friday 21st Dec) convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered following a two-week trial at Cambridge Crown Court.
Richardson had admitted the charge at the start of the trial. Both men were cleared of the more serious charge of arson with intent to endanger life.
They will be sentenced on the 13th of February.
The court heard the fire was started in the 400-year-old barn at the popular wedding venue.
The force control room received a call from a woman who claimed Richardson and Hall had threatened to burn down Chilford Hall and were in a black Honda.
Officers spotted the Honda driving out of the grounds and towards Linton. Richardson and Hall were later arrested in Haverhill.
The Honda was seized, inside police found bin bags containing several bottles of empty spirits and white tissues soaked in alcohol.
Investigations by fire officers and crime scene investigators revealed the fire had been started deliberately.
DC Tracey Griffin told Heart: "This was a revenge attack by an ex-employee and his accomplice which caused a considerable amount of damage, not to mention the heartache this caused couples who were due to get married at the wedding venue. The fire not only put officers and fire officers in danger but has also had a detrimental effect on the local community and local businesses.
"Thankfully no-one was hurt and I hope today's result sends out a strong message to others of the serious consequences of arson."
Martin Boome, Arson Manager at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service told Heart: "The thoughtless actions of these individuals led to a serious fire in a popular Cambridgeshire venue. This was devastating not only for the owners but also had implications for the whole community. When tackling the fire, the risk to the lives of firefighters involved was very real and very serious, amplified by gas cylinders exploding while we were on site.
The amount of resources needed to tackle this fire were significant and costly, not only for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service but also for our counterparts inSuffolk and Essex".
Mr Broome added: "We worked closely with police to recover evidence and file reports and we are pleased the outcome of this has led to a successful criminal conviction."
Owner of Childford Hall, Fiona Alper told Heart: "The terrible fire in June not only deeply affected us but also our loyal staff, clients, suppliers, friends and the local community. I would like to thank them all for being so incredibly supportive in the wake of this devastating tragedy.
"We are lucky to have so many fond memories of more than 30 years worth of incredible events hosted at Chilford Hall, and we are looking forward to hosting many more in the years to come.
Fiona added: "We are already taking bookings for our brand new, elegant and top of the range marquee which will be erected in February so that we can continue our business while we plan what to do with our site. The vineyard and winery have not been affected and the popular tours recommence in March as scheduled.
"We have lost unique, historic buildings and an irreplaceable art collection but we have every intention of rising from the ashes."