South East Wales

'Serial arsonist' jailed after Aberfan chapel arson

Daniel Brown Image copyright Wales News Service

A "serial arsonist" who destroyed a historical Merthyr Tydfil chapel has been jailed for five years.

Daniel Brown, 27, said he "lost control" on 11 July last year and set fire to Capel Aberfan, which was used as a makeshift mortuary following the Aberfan disaster.

He caused more than £500,000 damage to the chapel, which was built in 1876.

Brown, from Nixonville, said he "got a kick" from arson, Merthyr Tyfil Crown Court heard.

He will stay on licence for 10 years.

The court was told Brown set fire to his own home when he was nine years old.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThere are concerns that Capel Aberfan may now need to be completely knocked down

A £40,000 Aberfan disaster memorial organ which was destroyed in the chapel fire had been donated by Queen Elizabeth II.

It was given when she visited the community after a slag heap collapsed on the Pant Glas Junior School leaving 116 children and 28 adults dead.

Prosecuting, Rachel Knight said Brown had set fire to a wheelie bin earlier that evening and called 999 himself, but was "disappointed" when neighbours put out the fire before crews arrived.

"Less than two hours later fire officers were called back to tackle the chapel blaze," she said.

"The chapel was locked but they were approached by Brown, claiming to be the caretaker."

Brown had a set of keys for the chapel because he was a voluntary cleaner - and he had sneaked in to set fire to a dust sheet before walking home.

Miss Knight said: "The fire was completely out of control. The roof became well alight and quickly collapsed."

A pulpit worth £15,000 was also lost, which was due to be sold to an American buyer to raise funds for the building.

Brown told police: "I don't know why I did it. It just got out of control. I love that church. I set fire to my house in Aberdare when I was nine. I need help."

Ms Knight added: "He told the police he was a Christian and attended weekly prayer meetings."

'Scar on the village'

Iris Minett, 80, whose two children died in the Aberfan disaster welcomed the jail sentence.

"We have been through so much here that it is beyond belief that someone could have done this," she said.

"The chapel meant a lot to many people but now it will never be the same."

Her daughter Gaynor Madgwick said: "No amount of time in prison will make up for the emotional damage caused by what he did to the chapel.

"Nothing can bring back the pews where those children were laid to rest.

"It is now a scar on the village and is standing like a monstrosity."

Judge Richard Twomlow said: "It was a building that was priceless to the community and there was understandable outrage and grief.

"An important part of the history of Aberfan has been irretrievably lost."

Image copyright Phillip Bunce/Facebook
Image copyright Phillip Bunce/Facebook

More on this story