Man jailed for starting fire at Homebase in Kent

Benny Dighton
Image caption Benny Dighton was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection at Maidstone Crown Court

A man who started a fire which destroyed a Homebase store at a retail park in Kent has been jailed.

Benny Dighton, 28, carried out the arson attack at the South Aylesford Retail Park on 1 May.

Maidstone Crown Court heard he also started a fire at a B&Q store in nearby Larkfield on the same day and tried to start a fire at B&Q Maidstone on 3 May.

Dighton was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection with a minimum term of four years.

The blaze at the Homebase store lasted for nearly 42 hours. It spread to Carpetright, causing staff and about 80 shoppers to flee the flames.

Thick plumes

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

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

The damage caused by the blaze cost the company £8m. No-one was injured.

CCTV captured Dighton, formerly of Chelmar Road, Chatham, entering the three stores and he was arrested on 3 May.

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

Group manager John Robertson, of Kent Fire and Rescue Service, was an incident commander on the day.

He said: "'Anyone who was there can vouch for the fact that this was a ferocious fire which demanded the use of crews and equipment from all over the county for a prolonged period."

Det Insp Ian Rogerson said it was a "miracle" nobody was killed.

"The damage that did occur, plus the disruption to shoppers and the stores themselves was significant," he said.

Dighton had admitted two counts of arson with intent to endanger life and one charge of attempted arson with intent to endanger life at a hearing at Maidstone Crown Court on 9 July.

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