Teenage arsonists' pounds 1m 'orgy of fire'

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TWO teenagers, including a 'serial arsonist', caused damage estimated at more than pounds 1m in a five-month orgy of destruction in which they burgled and set fire to businesses in south-east London.

Some of the firms had been forced to close as a result, Inner London Crown Court was told yesterday. Judge Roderick Adams ruled it was in the public interest that Anthony Turner - the 'serial arsonist' - and James Kamara, both juveniles at the time, be named.

The court was told that they burgled more than 40 premises, and admitted setting fire to 10 sites including a nursery, a building society and a university outbuilding. Police believe they were responsible for nearly twice as many arson attacks, but escaped prosecution because of the cost to the public purse.

The judge said he was convinced that the pair, from Southwark, south-east London, realised the seriousness of their crimes. Both were sent to a young offenders' institution - Turner, now 17, for four and a half years, and Kamara, now 16, for three years.

Turner, who admitted being involved in 60 burglaries and nine arson attacks, pleaded guilty to seven offences of arson and eight burglaries, and asked for 15 burglaries to be taken into consideration. Kamara admitted three arson attacks and five burglaries.

Mark Gadsden, for the prosecution, said the pair were part of a gang of streetwise teenagers, some just 13, who caused a total of pounds 2m damage. Working in pairs or in threes, they targeted dozens of businesses within a square-mile radius in Southwark. He added: 'This pair went on an orgy of wanton destruction. They are prolific burglars and burgled a number of commercial premises. They set fire to some of these premises, and on occasions the owners and occupiers were forced out of business.'

They were caught after a police surveillance operation early last year. Neither had shown any remorse, the court was told. Kamara, who had a two-week trip to Jamaica, funded by a local authority, while on bail, had told police: 'I am gutted I got caught.'

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