Fireman jailed over arson plot – Pendle Today

14 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Fireman jailed over arson plot – Pendle Today
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Fireman jailed over arson plot

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A burly fireman nicknamed Chunk who arranged an insurance scam that involved torching his £47,000 BMW in Lancashire fell from pinnacle to pit as he was jailed for five years.

Watch manager Anthony Murray, 43, got his accomplice Gareth Collier, 33, to set fire to the car in the fire station yard where he worked, while he accompanied his colleagues on a hoax 999 call to cover his tracks.

Murray, whose black supercar had the personalised number plate CH11UNK after his nickname, was scrambled to reports of a serious car accident on a remote hill miles away from the station in Skelmersdale, Lancs.

But as Murray and others attended the bogus call-out made by Collier, his accomplice went to the fire station to set fire to Murray’s BMW Alpina D3 Bi-Turbo, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Murray, from Orrell, near Wigan, also worked part-time as a nightclub doorman, where he met Collier, from Longshoot, Wigan, also a bouncer, and the two hatched the plan, with Collier offered £1,000 to do the job.

Both had debts and both were motivated by greed, the court heard.

The pair later admitted conspiracy to commit arson. Murray also pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and one of perverting the course of justice.

Murray, a father-of-one with 18 years’ service with Lancashire Fire Service, was jailed for five years and Collier for two years and three months.

Passing sentence Judge Stephen Everett told the defendants: Greed was at the heart of offending for both of you. You were both greedy individuals. Each of you had built up debts.

This was a pre-meditated, carefully planned fraud.

Earlier, the court heard Murray had bought the car in June 2011 for £47,400, by borrowing £28,710 from BMW Finance and a £14,000 loan from Lloyds TSB along with his own £4,700 deposit.

He then took out two policies to cover the car and finance – and cashed them in after the arson attack in the early hours of October 5, last year.

Murray stood to gain £23,100 in the insurance pay-out once the finance for the destroyed car was paid off.

But police became suspicious after tracing the hoax call back to Collier’s partner – and discovering his accomplice had gone to hospital on the night of the attack suffering a burn to his hand.

A cigarette lighter and gauze found nearby also linked Collier’s DNA to the incident.

A fellow fireman, Anthony Roberts, had his own Ford car worth £2,600 destroyed in the blaze along with a Vauxhall Vivaro van belonging to Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, worth £15,500.

Murray also wrote and sent a series of bogus letters in an attempt to put police off the scent, Kenneth Grant, prosecuting, told the court.

The letters were purportedly from someone with a grudge after an incident during his work as a bouncer, suggesting the attack on his car was in revenge.

John Harrison, in mitigation, said Murray, who has a daughter, aged 10, had joined the fire service in 1995 and put in years of public service before the arson plot.

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He’s made a complete fall from pinnacle to pit, he said.

He’s performed enormous service to the public over those long years.

This represents a very serious case and a very big fall from grace.

This man is probably never likely to go before the courts again.

This man is not used to committing crime. This was a mad hat plan, hatched through financial difficulty.

It was bound to be detected because the trail pointed only to him.

Murray was suspended from duty as watch manager when an investigation into the offences began and has since been dismissed by the fire service.

Detective Constable Adam Burke from Lancashire Police said: To put members of the public at risk by making a hoax call to the fire station to ensure the station was empty, whilst Collier set fire to Murray’s car, is not only dangerous but completely unacceptable.

He did all of this for money. He put lives at risk, leaving West Lancashire vulnerable if there was a genuine need for firefighters. I hope it sends a warning to others that crimes of this nature are extremely serious and will not be tolerated.

Bob Warren, director of people and development at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said: We are appalled by the criminal actions of a man who, although working within a service having the core duty to protect lives and property from fire, committed arson in an attempt to defraud insurance companies.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2013, All Rights Reserved.

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