Photographer unnamed

A man who hid a fire extinguisher and then torched a Mid Wales hotel killing one person has been jailed for 21 years.

Shropshire Star reported “Damion Harris, 31, of Llanbadarn Fawr, had been drinking when he entered the Ty Belgrave Hotel in Aberystwyth in July last year, which was fully booked with guests.

He started a fire which ripped through the hotel, and saw guests, including children, scrambling for safety.

Shropshire Star photographer – The fire

One man, 48-year-old Lithuanian fire safety officer Juozas Tunaitis was missing, and his remains were found two months after the tragedy.

At Swansea Crown Court, Harris was given an extended sentence of 21 years after admitting manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm and arson being reckless as to endanger life.

Inspector Jonathan Rees, of Ceredigion CID, said he hoped it would bring some closure for the victim’s family.

He said: “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.”

Previously the court had heard how the fire began in the basement, with men, women and children were forced to climb to the hotel’s roof.

Some even jumped from balconies, with Richard Simnett falling from the hotel’s steep slate roof and suffering serious injuries after helping his partner and four and five year old sons.

Harris had used a cigarette lighter to set towels in a cupboard and sheets on fire, after he sneaked into the hotel at 2am.

He was captured on CCTV removing a fire extinguisher from a wall in the reception area, before hiding it on an upper level.

He returned downstairs to set a pair of net curtains on fire.

The flames on the curtains self-extinguished but Harris entered the hotel’s basement and then set fire to a cupboard containing linen before making his escape” here.

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