Two teenagers burnt down a town’s high street, causing £2million worth of damage, after starting a fire because they were bored and “messing about”.

Adam Bushell, 18, and Geraint Purton, 19, poured perfume into a plastic tray and threw it into a bin at the back of charity shop, Sense, which supports deaf-blind people, in Uckfield High Street on September 2 last year.

This action triggered a massive fire involving a row of shops.

Locals dubbed the blaze The Great Fire of Uckfield as buildings went up and people were evacuated.

As the blaze took hold the duo ran off.

Two charity shops – Sense and the British Heart Foundation – were among those that were gutted and a rebuilding scheme had to be launched following the fire.

Neither of these shops had insurance, Lewes Crown Court was told yesterday.

Judge Charles Kemp condemned the pair, 17 and 18 at the time of the offence, as “irresponsible and reckless”.

He described their actions as “stupid” and said it was fortunate people did not die in the fire.

Jailing Purton for three years and Bushell for nine months suspended for two years and ordering him to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, he said their actions had taken place because they were “bored”.

He said: “You were messing about in the bins.

“You [Purton] were looking for items to furnish your flat.

“The fire caused the most appalling damage. It caused businesses to be gutted.

“When the fire took hold what did you do? You ran off. You did not raise the alarm. You panicked. You have lost your good character in a spectacular fashion.”

'Peer pressure'

The court was told that jobless Bushell, who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, was susceptible to “peer pressure” while Purton had taken cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and alcohol on the night of the fire.

Defending Bushell, Dan Friar said: “Peer pressure was a factor.”

Defending Purton, Kevin Light said: “We know he is a malleable character. We know he has an IQ of 74 [a low score].”

Detective Constable Sean Stapley, of East Sussex CID, said: “A moment of ignorance turned a harmless game into a dangerous fire.”

Both Bushell, of Luxford Close, Uckfield, and Purton, of Parklands, Maresfield, were sentenced for arson.

Purton was also sentenced for one count of burglary while at court yesterday – and asked Judge Kemp to take 13 similar offences into consideration.

The court was told he committed the burglaries between October 2012 and March this year, while on bail for the Uckfield arson.

In one of these burglaries – which all involved homes – he stole jewellery and cutlery worth more than £5,000.

The Argus:

(pic by Ron Hill)

Purton burgled one home in Fletching, near Lewes, while a 12-year-old boy was still at home.

The youngster hid under his parents’ bed after hearing glass cracking and called his father who returned home and confronted Purton. Purton fled but the man’s description of him led to his capture.

His lawyer, Kevin Light, said Purton claimed he committed these offences because he had been ordered to by a gang of travellers.

He claimed: “He described how he had been forced into it by people who he would not name but who were from the travelling community.

“He was being provided by alcohol and cannabis by partaking in burglaries.”

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