A TEENAGED McDonald’s worker has been found guilty of arson after setting fire to a restaurant forcing staff and customers to evacuate.
Fareham Youth Court heard Scott Rapley, 17, took a lighter to the West Street branch of the fast-food outlet in Havant – where he worked – before lighting the blaze in a first-floor storeroom.
This was a serious offence, it was only through the calm and swift actions of staff on duty that day that no customers or staff were harmedDetective Constable Roy Kimber
Quick-acting staff raced to find the source of the fire as smoke poured into the kitchen area through a vent.
McDonald’s manager Jonathan Brazier told the court he went noticed a smell before going upstairs and opening the storeroom door.
He said: ‘The corner of the dining area looked like smoke. I realised it must have been coming from upstairs.
‘The room was filled with smoke in the stock room.
‘Where the fire was there’s shelving on the left-hand side. It was halfway up the shelving going up towards the ceiling.’
He tried to battle the flames with a fire extinguisher but could not and the fire service were called to put out the blaze. Outside the restaurant witnesses told how Rapley said he feared getting the blame because he had previously been blamed for a flood.
Magistrates heard Rapley was seen acting nervously outside McDonald’s in the aftermath of the blaze.
He was later searched by police and a lighter was found hidden in his sock.
He repeatedly denied arson during the two-and-a-half-day trial and even stormed out of court on Wednesday afternoon under questioning by prosecutor Yasmin Hall.
But after viewing CCTV and hearing from witnesses, magistrates ruled Rapley failed to account for what he did while off camera.
Chairman of the magistrates Paul Thompson found Rapley guilty of arson, and reckless as to whether life was endangered for the September 24 blaze.
He lifted reporting restrictions previously in place banning identifying Rapley after an application from The News.
He said this was due to the offence affecting the community in Havant and Rapley’s similar previous conviction.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Roy Kimber said: ‘This was a serious offence. It was only through the swift actions of staff on duty that day that no customers or staff were harmed.
‘As the court heard after the conviction this isn’t Scott’s first arson offence.
‘I hope that perhaps now he’ll take some responsibility for what he’s done and get the help he needs to prevent him from endangering anybody else in the future.’
Mr Thompson bailed Rapley for a pre-sentence and psychiatric reports to be completed.
As part of his bail Rapley, of Cedar Gardens, Havant, must not enter any McDonald’s in Hampshire.