Hatfield teen not guilty of M1 arson

16:14 04 April 2012

Court

Court

Archant

A GANG of teenage firebugs have been cleared of starting a blaze that shut the M1 for almost a week.

The fire in a scrapyard underneath a motorway flyover caused £4.5m worth of damage and was said to be the climax of a five-day orgy of destruction.

Hatfield lad Luke Matthews, 18, was said to have “screamed with delight” when he saw how much news coverage the fire had generated.

But Matthews, from Richmond Court, Hatfield, was found not guilty of starting the blaze in the Apex Metals scrapyard in Mill Hill, north-west London, last April 15.

Matthews was however, found guilty, along with eight others, of starting a series of fires in the days leading up to the motorway inferno.

The fire caused traffic misery on one of the busiest sporting weekends of the year, as fans travelled to London to see the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium.

Thousands of runners were also converging on the capital for the London Marathon.

Members of the gang took photos on their mobile phones of themselves posing next to the fires they had started, which they then uploaded and ‘tagged’ on Facebook.

The court heard they had sourced materials to burn from skips including old curtains and a television.

Accelerants in the form of carpet cleaner and aerosols were also used.

The jury of six men and six women took eight days to reach their verdicts following a trial at Wood Green Crown Court.

Matthew’s mother wept as the verdicts were delivered.

The arsonists had insisted they had nothing do with the M1 blaze – despite starting all the other fires.

Judge Fraser Morrison delayed sentencing while reports of the defendants were written.

He added he had not ruled out sending Matthews to prison.

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