The man who burned down the Ty Belgrave hotel on Aberystwyth’s seafront, killing one guest and badly injuring another, still can’t explain why he did it.
Cambrian News reported “Damion Harris, aged 31, of Llwyn Onn, Llanbadarn Fawr, has been jailed for 16 years – with a further five years on licence – after he admitted manslaughter, arson and inflicting grievous bodily harm.
After a three-day sentencing hearing at Swansea Crown Court, Judge Paul Thomas told Harris what he had done came close to murder.
The hotel burned to the ground during the early hours of 25 July last year.
The neighbouring Belle Vue hotel, which had 54 guests at the time, was also damaged by the fire, as was the privately owned Grosvenor House, occupied by an 83-year-old woman and a man aged 72.
Michael Jones, the barrister leading the prosecution, played to the court CCTV coverage from inside the hotel which showed Harris clearly setting two fires.
He strolled into the Ty Belgrave at about 2am and could be seen looking for something to steal. He prised open a display cabinet in the foyer, tried to take paintings from a wall and opened various doors before apparently suddenly turning his mind to arson.
Harris first carried a fire extinguisher upstairs from the ground floor, returning with a trouser press, and then used a plant pot to wedge open a fire door.
He then calmly flicked a cigarette lighter at curtains in the foyer until they caught fire, and then walked down to the lower ground floor, where he tried to get into a storage unit.
It was here, the court heard, where Harris started the fire that would destroy the hotel.
The blaze took hold so quickly the smoke travelled upstairs and smothered the first fire he had started.
Harris walked out and towards the centre of Aberystwyth.
Mr Jones said it was notable that after his arrest, Harris told police: “The one thing I would never do is hurt anyone. I know hotels have got people in them. If I had seen smoke I would have been the first person to make the call so no-one gets hurt.”
But Harris knew there was a fire – and walked past several working telephone boxes without dialling 999.
Back at the hotel, said Mr Jones, fire alarms were going off and the 16 guests were struggling to reach safety” here.