Teenagers in custody after causing fire and £15m damage to Grade-listed Henderson Hall in Newcastle

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Henderson Hall in Heaton in June last year. Credit: NCJ Media

Two teenage boys have been sent to custody after torching a Grade II-listed building in Newcastle and causing £15m worth of damage.

The 17-year-olds set a shower curtain alight inside the Newcastle University owned Henderson Hall in Heaton, causing a fire which spread across the property.

Watch the footage of the Grade II listed building on fire from June last year

The Youth Court on North Tyneside heard how the boys bragged, boasted and recorded the incident on their mobile phones and posted on Snapchat. They also posed for a picture together while each smoking a cigarette.

Gurjot Kaur, prosecuting, told the court how they had been in contact on Snapchat and one of them had asked the other if he wanted to go to an abandoned building in Heaton.

She said they gained entry to the former student accommodation, which had been derelict for years, through a damaged window on 8 June last year.

Video footage, which they captured at the scene, showed one of the youths trying to set fire to a mattress and the other blowing it out.

In another video, the same defendant could be seen using a purple lighter to set fire to the shower curtain.

When they realise the flames had turned into a bigger blaze, the same defendant decided to record a video for Snapchat in which he could be heard saying they were going to "burn the building down".

The court heard the other youth then bragged about the fire.

The grade-listed building went up in flames in June 2023. Credit: NCJ Media

Miss Kaur said a member of university staff, who is based at the campus, saw a large cloud of smoke as he was walking along. He spotted two males on the roof and shouted at them saying: "Get off, it’s not worth your life."

One teenager managed to escape over a fence however the worker stopped the other male from doing the same. Miss Kaur said he was able to grab his backpack and detain him on the ground.

The youth, who managed to escape, went on to send voice notes to another person in which he said he needed to avoid the police.

Miss Kaur told the court in North Shields how 14 calls had been made to 999 about the fire at Henderson Hall.

She said the cost of the damage was £15m and this did not include the additional cost of insurance cover. She said the cover was now £400,000 due to the premium doubling.

Both males, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted carrying out arson at Henderson Hall and destroying £15m worth of property during a previous hearing last month.

They were sentenced during separate hearings at the Youth Court on Wednesday.

Henderson Hall engulfed in flames. Credit: NCJ Media

Adam Scott, defending the teenager who used the lighter to start the fire, told the court: "This place appears in (the youth's) nightmares. It's something that's staying with him constantly."

Mr Scott said that his client had passed his GCSEs, was studying at college and had a part-time job.

He said that, due to his age, he did not recognise the risk of the fire, adding: "When he was lighting the shower curtain he thought, in his mind, there would be a fire.

"A fire he could film for whatever purpose - Snapchat I don’t know - but it would burn out with the tiles in the confines of that area. That seems to be the thinking that was going through his mind at that time."

He said that the teenager now recognises that any fire could result in what happened on that day.

Mr Scott told magistrates: "He’s destroyed a building. The choice today is whether or not his life is destroyed as a result of that. I submit there’s a risk of that happening if he goes away."

Chair of the Bench, John Fleet, asked the youth if he wanted to say anything which may persuade them to hand him a referral order rather than a period in detention.

The defendant, who was dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, said: "I think it’s quite obvious the thought process about sending me away. You see the videos and you see the figure and 15 mil, but at the end of the day it was unintentional, it was reckless, it was stupid."

The court heard the fire caused £15m worth of damage to Henderson Hall. Credit: NCJ Media

He told them he had been "quite traumatised" by the thought that if things had gone differently that day he might not be standing there. He said that he has also avoided reoffending while on bail.

Mr Fleet asked him: "Once you realised the fire was getting out of control why did neither of you think to phone the fire brigade?"

He replied: "I don’t know, I think we were too focused on getting out of the building because it was stupidly fast. We couldn’t see in front of us. It was one of the scariest times of my life.

"I think we both sort of knew in the back of our minds that the fire brigade were already on the phone. We could hear shouting from outside, that’s where we found out where the window was to get out."

Mr Fleet sentenced him to a six month detention and training order.

Amy Lamb, defending the second youth, told the court how he was studying A levels, had a part-time job and was hoping to go to university. She handed over a letter, which he had written himself, to the bench.

"In terms of mitigation he is a boy who is genuinely sorry and remorseful for his actions," she said. "His letter sets out deeply how mortified and remorseful he is to be here after committing his offence."

She also told the bench: "At the time when it took hold he has tried to use a fire extinguisher, he'd been unable to make it work. He fully accepts that he ran away from the scene in a panic.

"It was not his ambition at all to cause large scale damage."

The teenager, who was dressed in a blue suit, shirt and tie, was handed a four month detention and training order. Ms Lamb told the court that she would be appealing the sentence handed to him.

At the height of the blaze, thick black smoke could be seen billowing into the sky for miles around Tyneside.

There were 10 appliances on scene along with two aerial ladder platforms, and crews remained throughout the night to keep the fire under control.

The building suffered significant fire damage and most of the roof was destroyed. Nobody was injured in the fire.

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