Arsonist destroyed Grade II-listed home in Newport in "act of vengeance"

PUBLISHED: 17:27 19 February 2019 | UPDATED: 07:32 20 February 2019

Damage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Damage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Archant

An arsonist has been convicted after causing damage costing more than £1.7million to an historic house.

Damage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICEDamage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Philip Day, 55, broke into the 700-year-old property in High Street, Newport, while the occupants were away on December 31, 2017.

Neighbours called emergency services after spotting the fire at about 5.25am.

The blaze destroyed the Grade II listed house.

In the aftermath, it was found there had been multiple fires set within the property.

Damage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICEDamage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

During the extensive police investigation, automatic number plate recognition cameras revealed a van Day was insured to drive was driven from his home county of Cheshire to Essex in the early hours of December 31. It was then caught on camera again heading towards Cheshire shortly before 7.45am.

He was charged with arson and burglary in July 2018 and stood trial at Chester Crown Court on January 2.

The jury heard the incident was linked to a case where Day believed there had been a miscarriage of justice involving a woman, whom he had contacted over social media and begun an affair with.

He decided to target a man involved in that case, found out where he was living at the time in Newport and deliberately set fire to the house.

Damage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICEDamage to the house caused in the attack. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

Day, of Saltash Close, Runcorn, was convicted of arson today (Tuesday). He was found not guilty of burglary.

He had also been charged with arson with intent to endanger life and two counts of stalking, following a separate investigation by Cheshire Police, and was also convicted of those charges.

He had made unfounded allegations against a teacher at the University of Chester Academy Northwich and had stalked them and other staff at the school.

Philip Day. Picture: ESSEX POLICEPhilip Day. Picture: ESSEX POLICE

During that time he posted a number of messages and videos on social media naming the teacher and falsely claimed that children had been harmed at the academy.

It culminated in Day setting fire to the school in the early hours of February 25, 2018, by pouring petrol through the roof and lighting it.

It caused extensive damage, which was estimated to cost in the region of £2.4million to repair.

Day was remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday, April 12.

Detective Constable Christopher Sedgwick, who investigated the Newport arson, said: “Day has caused considerable pain and heartache, not just to those directly involved but to other innocent people who had nothing to do with him.

“He waged an act of vengeance based on misinformation and unfounded allegations. In doing so, he left a trail of emotional and physical destruction in his wake.

“This case will hopefully act as a reminder to the public that vigilante behaviour is not the way forward. If you have any concerns you feel should be investigated, please contact the police.

“I would like to give enormous praise to the victims, who have shown great strength and dignity throughout this investigation and trial, despite the emotional toil it has had on them.

“I hope that this conviction gives them some comfort in knowing justice has been done.”

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