[T]WO people have been found guilty of deliberately starting a fire which destroyed a residential house in Clayton-le-Moors.
Samuel Todd, 27, of Elmwood Close, Accrington, and Ryan Ibbitson, 23, of Edward Street, Accrington, were convicted yesterday (Monday) following a trial at Burnley Crown Court, after starting a fire at an address on Cumberland Avenue in a bid to claim insurance money.
The incident occurred at around 2am on April 15th 2014.
Under the cover of darkness the pair went to the address with a canister of petrol and were captured on CCTV disappearing down the side of the house, before reappearing just as an explosion occurred.
Officers later estimated the pair had used several gallons of petrol to set the house alight.
Luckily nobody was present at the address at the time, however the immediate explosion and subsequent fire caused such extensive damage that the house later had to be demolished.
It also caused major damage to the adjoining property. Thankfully the residents at that address were on holiday at the time, so were uninjured, although they were forced to move out of their home for two years while repairs were carried out.
Officers later concluded Todd and Ibbitson had started the fire hoping to put in an insurance claim for damaged property, as the house was being rented by a friend of theirs. The friend has since been cleared of any involvement in the incident.
During their investigation officers found clothing which had been damaged by fire, as well as a petrol canister and lighter, all within two cars owned by Ibbitson.
Detective Inspector Tim McDermott, of Lancashire Police, said: “I welcome the conviction of these two men and would like to thank the jury for the time and concentration they have put into a very complex case.
“In over 20 years in the police service I cannot recall two suspects who have twisted and altered their accounts as often as Todd and Ibbitson did in an attempt to avoid the consequences of their actions. From the start they believed they could lie their way out of trouble, and it is thanks to a meticulous investigation that justice has now been served.
“I would also like to thank the witnesses who gave evidence, and for their patience during what has been a very long process.
“The residents of Cumberland Avenue had their homes and lives put at risk and the disruption since has been long and very upsetting. I hope this verdict now offers them some comfort, and they can move forward knowing Ibbitson and Todd will face the consequences of their actions.”
Both Ibbitson and Todd were found guilty of conspiring to commit arson and conspiring to commit fraud. They has both previously pleaded guilty to being concerned in the production of a class B drug.
The pair are due to be sentenced on August 15th 2017.