Groom admits wedding night arson
Friday 02 December 2011
A groom today admitted starting a devastating fire at the country house where his wedding reception was held.
The blaze caused £6 million worth of damage to the Peckforton Castle Hotel, near Tarporley, Cheshire, and led to almost 200 people, including 11 children, being evacuated.
Max Kay, 36, of Waylands Drive, Hunts Cross, Liverpool, today pleaded guilty to a charge of arson that was reckless as to whether life was endangered when he appeared at Chester Crown Court.
He denied a count of arson with intent to destroy or damage property and to endanger life and this was accepted by the prosecution.
Judge Roger Dutton granted Kay bail with conditions but said it was "inevitable" that he would face a custodial sentence.
The fire broke out in a wing of the castle at around 5am on Sunday, June 19.
The property developer and father-of-two was the groom at a wedding party which had been using the venue at the time of the blaze.
A previous hearing was told that Kay and his wife had rowed with staff and the owners of the castle earlier that day over money.
Around 100 firefighters tackled the fire at the Grade 1-listed property, a 19th-century country house built in the style of a castle.
Duncan Bould, prosecuting, told the court the fire had caused "in the region" of £6 million of damage.
He said: "There were a large number of guests staying that night."
"Fortunately, and it is good fortune, the premises was equipped with a very efficient fire alarm and the combination of that and the staff meant that all the guests were able to be evacuated."
Mr Bould said many of the guests were of Kay's own wedding party who had "taken alcohol to some extent or another" and were "obviously vulnerable".
Patrick Thompson, defending, said the offence came at a time when the defendant was under "great personal strain" and he was "near bankrupt".
An earlier hearing was told that Kay and his wife had argued with the castle owners about the late payment for the wedding and then again later in the evening about a bar bill.
The court was told that Kay, who was said to have consumed a large amount of vodka that day, then carried on complaining to staff about the owners before leaving the final group of revellers who were drinking into the early hours.
The hearing was told that Kay was caught on CCTV going into and coming out of the drawing room where the blaze started and which was set out for the next day's wedding.
Fire investigators later discovered the fire was started on some curtains.
Kay will be sentenced at Chester Crown Court on February 3.
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