Duo jailed for burning historic hall to the ground in arson attack

The ruins of Childford Hall

The ruins of Childford Hall - Credit: Archant

TWO men have been jailed for burning down a 400-year-old wedding venue.

Mark Hall

Mark Hall - Credit: Archant

Thomas Richardson

Thomas Richardson - Credit: Archant

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, 2012.

Hall was sentenced to four years and Richardson was sentenced to 5 years and 4 months imprisonment at Cambridge Crown Court today (Friday).

Hall was convicted of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, Richardson had already admitted the charge following a two-week trial at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday, December 21.

Both were cleared of the more serious charge of arson with intent to endanger life.

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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.

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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 empty spirit bottles and white tissues soaked in alcohol.

Investigations by fire officers and crime scene investigators revealed the fire had been started deliberately.

DC Tracey Griffin said: “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.

“When officers arrived the fire was well lit and the Alper family were still asleep in their beds. The officers woke the family and moved them to a place of safety until firefighters arrived to fight the blaze.

“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, said: “We work closely with the police to help prosecute offenders of arson. We carry out stringent fire investigations to establish the cause and retrieve any evidence that will assist police in their prosecutions.

“This particular incident at Chilford Hall had a huge impact on the community and all the emergency services.

“The threat to the safety of the public, firefighters and police was very serious.

“This arson attack was devastating and we know no prison sentence can ever replace what was lost in the fire.

“But we hope this sentencing today sends a clear message out to people who commit arson that it will not be tolerated by the emergency services and the community.

“The offence of arson carries a lengthy prison sentence. We will investigate every deliberate fire and if there is any evidence of suspects, action will be taken.”

Owner of Chilford Hall, Fiona Alper said: “Nothing can change what has happened and the huge loss we have suffered.

“We have been deeply touched by the overwhelming support from the public. Since the fire we have been working hard to re-establish our core business and are now looking forward to a bright new future for Chilford Hall.”

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