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Man jailed for torching historic Tudor mansion after DNA is found on match

Jeremy Taylor Credit: Manchester Evening News Syndication

An arsonist who torched an historic Tudor mansion, causing £5 million worth of damage, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years - after being caught by a single match.

Shop worker Jeremy Taylor, 28, set fire to newspapers he stuffed around drainpipes and doors at Grade II listed Wythenshawe Hall, a 16th century timber-framed manor house.

Taylor was high on cannabis and alcohol and "feeling sorry for himself" at the time, Manchester Crown Court heard.

After setting five separate fires at the building, which had survived for five centuries, he set off for home nearby and left it to burn in the early hours of March 15 last year.

The flames spread through the entrance hall and upwards onto the first and second floors and out through the roof, destroying the bell tower.

The bill to taxpayers for repairing the damage and restoration is estimated to be up to £5.2 million.

After the flames were out two days later, fire and police investigators found three matches - and DNA on one of them matched Taylor to the crime scene.

The defendant, who lived near the hall in Wythenshawe with his family, suffered a "storm of abuse" from locals after his arrest.

The hall, dating back to 1540, was gifted to the city of Manchester in 1926 by a philanthropist "to be used solely for the public good". It was staffed by volunteers and used to teach local schoolchildren about their history and heritage.

Taylor smiled and waved to his partner in the public gallery as he was jailed for four-and-a-half years after admitting arson at an earlier hearing.

Watch our report on the case from Tim Scott:

Daniel Travers said Taylor, who had a job and steady girlfriend and had not been in trouble with police since a juvenile a decade ago was "deeply ashamed" of his actions.

He said the defendant had smoked cannabis since being a child and was under the influence of the drug along with drink that night.

Wythenshawe Hall was the home of the Tatton family for hundreds of years. Its history includes being besieged by parliamentary forces during the Civil War.

It and its grounds were given to Manchester City Council in 1929 and now house a museum and art gallery.

Reactions to the case

Gary Logan, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West said:

“Jeremy Taylor, for reasons only known to himself, caused extensive damage to one of the oldest and most loved buildings in Manchester that will cost in the region of £4.75 million to repair.

“His actions almost destroyed the 16th Century building and put at risk the lives of fire-fighters who attended to extinguish the blaze.

“Throughout the case he denied starting the fire, but we worked closely with the police to build a strong case against him, including CCTV and telephone evidence which proved he was in the area at the time of the fire. His DNA was found on a match next to the scraps of singed newspaper which were found at the scene. However on the first day of the trial, he eventually admitted to the offence and pleaded guilty to arson.”

– Gary Logan, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West

Ingrid Holden, a committee member of the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall told the court in a statement:

"I have cried over the damage caused and was totally devastated by the loss we have suffered.

"We have put our heart and soul into the hall so local people and beyond can enjoy their heritage.

"I find it hard to believe someone who lives in Wythenshawe could commit such a horrendous crime. It sickens me beyond belief."

– Ingrid Holden, a committee member of the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall

Inspector Luke Breakspear from GMP's City of Manchester Team, said:

"This was a mindless act that intended to destroy a historical building that has great significance to the people of Wythenshawe.

"People were shocked by the needless damage caused to a piece of our local and national heritage. Wythenshawe is a great place to live, work and visit and the strong community spirit is testament to this.

"Taylor's senseless actions could have taken an innocent life and I am just thankful no one was hurt.

"I would like to thank our colleagues at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service for stopping the fire spreading and causing more damage as well as their support throughout this investigation.

"I hope the community feel that justice has been served today and I am satisfied that Taylor is now where he deserves to be.

"Wythenshawe Hall is a beautiful building and hopefully in the near future we will see it open its doors again to the people of Manchester."

– Inspector Luke Breakspear from GMP's City of Manchester Team

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