Man admits starting Kent retail park blaze

Retail park fire
Image caption About 80 shoppers were in the two stores when the fire started

A man has admitted starting a fire which completely destroyed a Homebase store at a retail park in Kent.

Benny Dighton, 27, pleaded guilty to arson with intent to damage property and intent to endager life at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday.

The blaze at the Homebase, South Aylesford Retail Park, on 1 May lasted for nearly 42 hours.

The fire spread to Carpetright, causing staff and about 80 shoppers to flee the flames. No-one was injured.

Thick smoke

Dighton, of no fixed abode, also admitted another count of arson with intent to endanger life and one charge of attempted arson with intent to endanger life.

They relate to a small fire at a B&Q store in nearby Larkfield on the same day and an incident in B&Q Maidstone on 3 May, when staff found preparations for a fire.

About 90 firefighters, 17 fire engines and several support vehicles were needed at the height of the fire at Homebase.

Witnesses said the blaze sent thick plumes of smoke 50ft (15m) into the air.

Dighton is due to be sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on 27 August.

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