A DRUG addict has been jailed after an arson attack on a historic butchers in New Ferry.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how on October 23, 2019, Christopher Kelly, of New Chester Road, Rock Ferry, ignited a barrel containing 1,000 litres of used engine oil in an alleyway next to Edge and Sons on New Chester Road.

The blaze quickly spread, causing over £50,000 of damage and threatening residential flats above the ground floor shop.

Ryan Rothwell, prosecuting, described how at around 11.25pm two patrolling police officers spotted smoke coming from a nearby building.

On investigating they found flames spreading from a barrel to the butcher's and BP Autos on Legh Road. 

Wirral Globe: Christopher KellyChristopher Kelly

“The flames had spread over an area of 20 metres by 10 metres with the fire service using 1,000 litres of water," said Mr Rothwell. 

“It wasn’t until 1am on Thursday the flames were brought under control by emergency services and it was only good fortune that it didn't spread.”

CCTV footage from the butcher's captured a man in the alleyway who was later identified as Kelly by police officers. 

Kelly, 36, was arrested three days later with an interviewing officer noticing the defendant's trousers “smelt of smoke”.

He originally denied it was him who started the fire stating he was “in the area” however in August he accepted he caused the fire “accidently” and pleaded guilty around three weeks before a trial.

In a victim impact statement, Callum Edge, owner of the butchers, who were established in 1844 and have operated from the same shop ever since, said the damage to the property was valued at £44,140.98 with an additional £15,000 of cleaning costs on top.

Wirral Globe: Edge and Sons on New Chester Road. Google StreetviewEdge and Sons on New Chester Road. Google Streetview

Philip Astbury, defending, said Kelly, who has previous convictions for criminal damage, possession of bladed articles and possession of Class A drugs, “regretted” what he did and that he showed “genuine expressions of remorse”.

Mr Ashby said: “He genuinely regrets what he did, he thinks every night about what took place and regrets it every single time.”

In a psychiatric report from 2017, Kelly was described as “chaotic and dishevelled” after a long history of taking drugs.

But Mr Ashby said that Kelly, who appeared via video link from HMP Altcourse,  had remained “drug free” in custody and had applied for rehabilitation courses while in custody.

Judge David Swinterton said: “Had it not been for the sheer good fortune of the police officers driving by and calling the fire brigade many lives could have been put at risk.

“There was no real rhyme or reason as to why you did what you did. It was a mindless incident.

“I don’t think you deliberately targeted the business it was the reckless actions of  someone using Class A drugs at the time.”

Sentencing Kelly, Judge Swinerton, added: “I don’t find you dangerous and I accept you regret your decision.”

Kelly was sentenced to four years and five months in prison after which he will then be released on a licence.