Six teenagers cleared over M1 blaze


Six teenagers accused of setting a fire that closed the M1 motorway did not start the blaze, a jury has ruled.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said today that the six were acquitted of the arson which caused £4.5 million worth of damage.

The massive fire at a scrapyard under an elevated section of the motorway caused transport chaos for days in April last year. The stretch of motorway was closed for nearly a week following the fire on April 15.

Jurors at London's Wood Green Crown Court cleared the youths of any involvement with the M1 arson but the teenagers were convicted alongside three others of taking part in a spate of arson attacks across Barnet, north London, over a five-day period.

The court was told that the teenagers carried out four arson attacks in two parks in the area.

They photographed themselves next to the fires using their mobile phones and uploaded the pictures on the social networking site Facebook.

Luke Matthews, 18, of Richmond Court, Hatfield, Herts, Johno Johnson, 18, of Millfield Road, Edgware, north London, and a 17-year-old boy - who cannot be named for legal reasons - all admitted four counts of conspiracy to commit arson.

Jurors found Damien McQueen, 18, of Harcourt Avenue, Edgware, Hannah Parker, 18, of Meadfield, Edgware, a 15-year-old boy and Jaun Durandt, 18, of Meadfield, Edgware, guilty of two counts each of conspiracy to commit arson.

Durandt had previously pleaded guilty to one count of the same charge.

A 16-year-old boy from Edgware was also found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit arson.

Josh Lambe, 18, of Harcourt Avenue, Edgware, previously pleaded guilty to one count of the same charge. Jurors also found Lambe guilty of one further count of conspiracy to commit arson, Scotland Yard said.

Superintendent Simon Causer said: "These youths showed complete disregard for the safety of people living in Barnet, as well as putting the lives of those in the emergency services at risk.

"I believe that I am not alone in failing to understand what drove them to commit and boast about these despicable acts of vandalism, and hope that these verdicts will discourage anyone else from making such irresponsible decisions."

Eight of the youths will be sentenced on May 4. The 15-year-old boy, from Harrow, north west London, will be sentenced on May 9.

Matthews, Johnson, Lambe, and the unnamed youths were cleared of conspiring to destroy the scrapyard by fire.