Teenage arsonists ruined Portsmouth sports pavilion in bid to destroy break-in evidence – leaving possible £1m rebuild bill

TEENAGE arsonists left authorities facing a £1m bill to replace a sports pavilion after a petrol-fuelled fire ripped through the building.

The youngsters, 15 and 16, had tried to destroy evidence of their break-in at the facility at King George V Playing Fields in Cosham.

The damaged sports pavilion    Picture: @HantsFireDogs

The damaged sports pavilion Picture: @HantsFireDogs

Portsmouth Youth Court heard initial estimates to replace the pavilion, used by teams who book the eight pitches, ran up to £1m after the pair caused more than £75,000 worth of damage.

Both boys suffered burns when the out-of-control blaze tore through the building, leaving about half of it unusable by football teams since October last year.

Alicia Keen, prosecuting, said the older boy was in hospital for five days after he suffered severe face and neck burns and was put in an induced coma and on a ventilator.

The younger boy, who confessed, fled to a relative’s home after the blaze but was taken to QA Hospital.

‘It transpired that both had broken into the pavilion,’ the prosecutor said.

Damian Hayes, representing the younger boy, said: ‘I don’t think either of them, certainly [my client], appreciated what was about to happen when they piled items up inside that building with the intention of – they thought – destroying the evidence of their presence.’

Portsmouth City Council, which owns the sports facility, said the damage was in excess of £75,000 and early estimates had shown a replacement would cost £1m, although no decision has yet been made and costs could be revised.

Both boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted arson reckless as to whether life was endangered. The older boy will be sentenced next month.

District judge Anthony Callaway imposed a 12-month youth referral order on the younger boy, who also admitted a public order offence after throwing a smoke bomb in a shop and racially abusing the shop owner in Portsmouth.

‘These clubs could be left without their property as a result of the appalling act,’ the judge said. ‘They may promote activity among young people and because of this it’s all been lost.'

Mr Hayes said his client had improved in the 10 months he was remanded into the care of the local authority.​​​​​​​