A 15-year-old work-experience schoolgirl caused £1 million worth of damage to a Wilkinson shop after setting fire to the store – because she was BORED, a court heard.
The teen arsonist – who was on a placement from a fee-paying private school – started the blaze with a cigarette lighter on July 8 this year.
A court heard the “intelligent student” set fire to waste cardboard in a cage in the goods inward bay as she was fed up of stacking shelves and wanted to go home for the day.
Fire crews were called after the blaze got out of control and swept through the premises in Nuneaton, Warks., at around 12.20pm.
Staff and customers were evacuated as thick black smoke spilled through the store causing a staggering £1 million worth of damage.
Warwick Crown Court heard the blaze was extinguished by firefighters who battled for half an hour to bring it under control.
The youngster, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested by police shortly after where she admitted to officers it was a “stupid thing to do.”
Ninda Gill, prosecuting, said: “The incident occurred at lunchtime when the store was busy with customers, and elderly customers were caused distress.
“The potential for injury to staff and customers was great as the store was consumed by smoke.”
Miss Gill added that, as a result of the inferno, the hardware chain was now reviewing its national policy in relation to taking on any more work experience youngsters.
She said: “It has caused a national employer not to engage in work experience schemes.”
CCTV footage was shown to the court, capturing the teenager leaning into a cage of waste cardboard in the goods inbound bay.
Smoke began to rise one minute later and, as she left the bay, flames began to appear, which quickly turned into an inferno.
Fire investigators rated the danger to life at eight on a scale of one to ten, although the building was evacuated without anyone being injured.
The blaze was tackled by five fire crews using breathing apparatus and a “conservative estimate” has been put on the damage caused at between #600,000 and #1 million.
John Mohammed, defending, said: “To a degree she got a bit bored, and she would have liked to have done something more exciting than stocking shelves.
“When she went to the goods inward area she intended to start what she thought would be a small fire in a crate, as she described it, which contained cardboard boxes.
“She lit the corner of a box, and did not expect it to spread any further than the cage it was in.
“She thought it would cause some disruption, sufficient for her to be able to go home.
“She acknowledged it was a stupid thing to do. She didn’t realise how quickly the fire would spread to other boxes.
“She didn’t think it would lead to the sort of damage it did cause, principally as a result of smoke, as the fire itself was mainly contained within the goods inward area.
“She certainly did not intend to harm anyone.”
Mr Mohammed added that the girl came from a good family, and her parents were “aghast” at what she did.
He said she bitterly regrets, and she has written a letter of apology to Wilkinson.
The teenager herself said: “When I was doing it I didn’t think of the consequences.
“It was a stupid act. If I could turn the clock back, I would.”
On Wednesday the teenager was due to be sentenced after earlier pleading guilty to the offence.
But a judge ordered for her to be examined by a psychiatrist before her fate is decided at a later date.
According to the Court of Appeal psychiatric reports are usually required on defendants being sentenced for arson.
Judge Alan Parker said: “I am very concerned about her, and very concerned about the dissociation referred to.
“The fact that she is an intelligent girl makes it more disturbing.
“I think there has to be a psychiatric report to allay any anxieties a sentencing judge might otherwise have.
“I regard the preparation of such a report as essential.”
The judge adjourned the case for the report to be prepared.
The defendant was granted bail with conditions that she does not enter any retail premises unless supervised by an adult, does not go within 100 metres of the renovated Wilkinson outlet and does not have possession of any item capable of starting a fire.