I went through hell, says youth cleared over fire

 

A teenager who was held in custody for nine days after being mistakenly identified by police as being responsible for setting fire to a Miss Selfridge store during riots in Manchester has spoken of going through "hell" during his detention.

Dane Williamson, 18, of Salford, was arrested after £319,000 worth of stock was damaged at Miss Selfridge in Manchester city centre.

But shortly after appearing at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday, he was told that the case had been discontinued and he had been exonerated.

Mr Williamson had consistently protested his innocence, claiming his arrest had been due to a case of mistaken identity, but was charged with causing criminal damage and being reckless as to whether life was endangered, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

While on remand in Forest Bank prison, his flat in Salford was severely damaged by fire, destroying all of his possessions and leaving him homeless.

Mr Williamson has since spoken of his difficult time in custody.

"Being in Forest Bank was horrible. I had heard my name all over the radio. In prison I was being treated as if I was already guilty. It was quite scary and an experience I don't want to repeat," he told the Manchester Evening News.

He added: "I was going through hell. I was depressed. I was having panic attacks. I feared I was going to get convicted for something I didn't do which potentially carried a life sentence.

"While I was in custody I got the news from my solicitor that there had been a fire at my flat. All my personal belongings and photos were destroyed. I lost my home."

Mr Williamson has spent 17 years of his life living in care, and had moved into his home in Broughton, Salford, with the help of the children's charity Barnado's.

His solicitor, Kerry Morgan, spoke of her concerns that courts dealing with the riots had been working on a presumption of guilt rather than innocence. The lawyer at the Salford-based Morgan Brown and Cahill added that the charge was "rushed" because of the high-profile nature of the case.

Police have since arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the incident but Greater Manchester police say they are still searching for those who started the fire.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "The evidence against Mr Williamson was based on recognition from visual recordings. However following the charge the police discovered CCTV footage which significantly undermined the case."

In London, where the worst of the riots occurred, nearly 2,000 arrests have been made, and under half that number have been charged.

London's Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's biggest street festival, is to go ahead later this month, despite calls for it to be cancelled following the riots. But those accused of rioting have been ordered to stay away from the event, as fears mount over fresh outbreaks of violence.

Police numbers have been substantially increased, to the largest in the event's 47-year history.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all