Groom Max Kay who set wedding hotel on fire jailed for arson

A groom who deliberately set fire to the Cheshire hotel where his wedding reception was being held has been jailed for six years.

Max Kay, 37, from Liverpool, admitted starting the blaze at Peckforton Castle Hotel in Tarporley in June last year.

Chester Crown Court heard he was "massively" drunk and had argued over the bar tab and wider wedding bill.

He was sentenced after admitting arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

'Nobody crosses Max'

About 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Grade I-listed 19th Century country house, built in the style of a castle.

Almost 120 people, including 13 children, were evacuated when the fire broke out at 05:00 BST on 19 June.

Prosecutors told the court that Kay, of Waylands Drive in Hunts Cross, and his wife had rowed with staff and the owners of the castle earlier in the day over £15,000 which was still owed to the venue.

Mr Kay was then involved later in a dispute with hotel staff after being refused a bar tab.

Image caption Almost 120 people, including 13 children, were evacuated

The defendant had drunk about 20 double vodkas, the court heard, and warned staff that the hotel finance director was going to "get it".

"Nobody crosses Max," he was alleged to have said.

Kay was seen on CCTV going into and coming out of the drawing room, which was set up for the following day's wedding.

Fire investigators later discovered the blaze had been started when curtains in that room were set alight.

The court heard that Kay was under "enormous financial pressure", had a big ego and wanted to impress friends and family even though his property business had failed.

But he resented being pursued by the owners of the castle for payments and took revenge after they threatened to cancel the occasion just three days before the wedding unless they received the £15,000 still outstanding.

'Sought revenge'

Passing sentence, Judge Roger Dutton said Kay had tried to "maintain a bravado with friends and family".

"Having been made bankrupt...you embarked upon a wedding that would involve paying a figure of approximately £25,000 for a ceremony you could nowhere near afford.

"In the end you sought, and achieved, revenge against the proprietors of Peckforton Castle."

Keith Brooks, who was the Cheshire fire officer in charge on the day of the incident, welcomed the sentencing.

"Mr Kay′s reckless actions put the lives of his family, friends, hotel staff and firefighters at considerable risk."

Det Con Jo Gooddy, of Cheshire Police, said hotel staff had "experienced first hand his aggressive and bullying nature" when asking him to settle the bill.

"We hope that Kay has time to reflect on actions which potentially could have proved fatal, not only for his guests and staff at the hotel, but for his new wife."

Kay, a property developer and father of four, gave no reaction as he was sentenced.

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