Man who started fire and destroyed outdoor classroom ‘may have been showing off’

The fire at St Edmunds Catholic Primary School - picture by John Hughes ANL-150616-220050001
The fire at St Edmunds Catholic Primary School - picture by John Hughes ANL-150616-220050001

A man who started a fire at a Bury St Edmunds school destroying an outdoor classroom may have been showing off because he was a new resident at the town’s YMCA hostel, a court heard.

Dylan Brooks, 20, was with a group of other young people when he failed to check if a piece of smouldering wood he dropped beneath a gazebo was properly extinguished.

The fire at St Edmunds Catholic Primary School - picture by John Hughes ANL-150616-220119001

The fire at St Edmunds Catholic Primary School - picture by John Hughes ANL-150616-220119001

The resulting blaze at St Edmund’s Catholic Primary School, in Westgate Street, caused damage to the wooden structure and a boardwalk together with items in storage estimated to be up to £27,000.

At Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, Brooks, now of Tayfen Road, Bury, was sentenced to 10 months custody in a Young Offenders Institution by Judge John Devaux.

Brooks pleaded guilty to arson by being reckless.

Prosecuting, Juliet Donovan said that Brooks was at the school on the evening of June 16 last year with a group of others and did not ensure the piece of wood he ignited was properly put out before leaving.

Miss Donovan told the court: “He was new to the YMCA and it may have been a way of showing off. The view among others was that he never intended to cause the fire.

“He failed to ensure that it was stamped out and was somewhat arrogant and careless in what he did.”

Following his arrest, Brooks told police: “This is a set up. The others are just blaming me.”

But during a second police interview Brooks admitted being responsible but that it was never his intention to cause any damage. He said: “I was an idiot for not looking that it was out.”

Lori Tucker, in mitigation, said that Brooks had gone out with other residents from the YMCA, where he had just moved in, and they were sitting in the gazebo smoking.

Mrs Tucker said: “He was playing with a lighter and trying to light as piece of wood. It wasn’t deliberate, he should have checked that the piece of wood he blackened with his lighter was out.”

Brooks had difficulties in communicating with other adults about his problems, said Mrs Tucker.

She said: “In the past he seems to have played ostrich, putting his head in the sand and hoping that his problems would go away.”