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Arsonist who set fire to Belgrave hotel killing man jailed for 16 years

The fire engulfed the hotel and nearby properties Credit: Daisy Skye Wright

An arsonist has been jailed for 16 years for setting fire to a hotel in Aberystwyth which killed a man.

Damion Harris started the fatal fire on 25 June last year after spending the evening drinking in a pub.

CCTV footage shows the moment he set fire to a set of curtains before entering the basement and setting another fire.

His actions led to the death of 48-year-old Juozas Tunaitis, who was staying at the Ty Belgrave House Hotel while working at Aberystwyth University.

His body was found in the collapsed remains of the building two months after the fire.

The court heard how guests had to jump from balconies to escape the flames that also engulfed nearby properties.

One family were forced to leave through a window and climb onto the hotel's roof.

In court, it was described how guest Richard Simnett fell from the roof and suffered serious injuries. His partner and sons, aged five and four, had to be rescued from the roof by fire crews as smoke engulfed them.

Damion Harris was jailed for 16 years Credit: Dyfed Powys Police

Harris, 31, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arson and inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

He was originally charged with the murder of Mr Tunaitis, but offered guilty pleas including to the alternative charge of manslaughter on the day of his trial.

A letter written by Harris was read out in court in which he said he was "not a murderer" and would "never hurt anyone with his own two hands."

He was jailed for 16 years.

This is a tragic case where 48 year-old Juozas Tunaitis sadly lost his life in the fire at the Ty Belgrave Hotel, Aberystwyth in July last year where sixteen guests, including children, were staying.

A complex criminal investigation followed, involving specialist resources from Dyfed Powys Police Criminal Investigation Department, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Urban Search and Rescue, Forensic Scientists, supported by the Crown Prosecution Service, which has led to this result today.

I would like to thank everyone involved for their diligent work in bringing the offender to justice and also to the community in Aberystwyth for their support and patience during what was an intense investigation.

Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Tunaitis and hope that this result will provide some closure to the family.

– Detective Inspector Jonathan Rees, Ceredigion C.I.D