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Arsonist jailed for Amazon warehouse fire

19 September 2018

A DISGRUNTLED employee who set a fire which spread through Amazon's warehouse in Staffordshire causing £8m of damage to stock and premises has been jailed. 

Adris Ali was sentenced to four years at Stafford Crown Court for arson with intent or recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

The court was told the blaze, which started when Ali lit a stack of papers at the warehouse in Rugeley, had cost Amazon around £8m in total. 

Darron Whitehead, prosecuting, told the court the fire had damaged 613,549 units at the site, resulting in a loss of £7.3m. The repair, clean-up and labour costs amounted to a further £745,000. 

Mr Whitehead told the court that just after midday on 4 November last year a fire alarm activation was triggered at Amazon Fulfilment Centre, in Station Road, Rugeley. 

The building was evacuated of all staff and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene. A fire was burning on the third and fourth floors and internal sprinklers had been activated. 

Mr Whitehead read witness statements reporting 'large flames quickly growing and spreading between aisles' and 'flames stretching from floor to ceiling.' 

Staff had attempted to put the fire out, but after around five minutes made the decision to evacuate. 

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service investigator, Carl Mason, said the fire was deliberate and that toxic smoke had engulfed the building posing a risk to others. 

Management looked at staff rotas and determined that Ali, aged 22, of Kent Road, Walsall, was in the aisle at the location and time when the fire started. 

Mr Whitehead said Ali had admitted setting the fire, saying he had been 'disrespected' by a team leader. He said he wanted time off due to relationship problems, but the team leader had 'attitude' with him. He had taken a notebook or paper off a shelf, lit it with a cigarette lighter and walked away. 

Ali again admitted his actions following arrest by detectives. He pleaded guilty at Stafford Crown Court on 21 August. 

The court was told Ali had worked as a picker for Amazon for around three months at the time of the incident. 

Robert Cowley, defending, said Ali's actions were entirely out of character and he had made an early admission of guilt. 

"It was a huge loss sustained but the defendant did not intend this level of loss," he said. 

Judge Michael Chambers, sentencing, told Ali: "You put a lot of people at risk and caused a lot of damage. A fire such as this puts lives at genuine risk." 

Detective constable of Staffordshire Police Andrew Shorthouse, said it was fortunate the recklessness of Ali's actions had not resulted in more grave consequences. 

"This was a serious fire which has destroyed millions of pounds of stock, but we are glad that no one was harmed that day. Ali can now reflect on his actions in prison." 

Carl Mason, who completed Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's fire investigation for the incident, said: "We welcome this sentence which reflects the seriousness of Ali's actions. This fire could have easily resulted in serious injury to members of staff and it took considerable time and effort to safely extinguish."