A FIRE which ripped through a pirate play ship ‘in seconds’ was caused by young boys lighting a ball of toilet tissue.
Two eleven-year-old boys and a ten-year-old said they were making a ‘bonfire’ to ‘keep warm’ in Selsey’s East Beach play park last October.
But despite their efforts to stamp it out, the fire erupted on the floor, engulfing the ship and causing more than £30,000 worth of damage.
Giving evidence at Chichester Youth Court on Tuesday, one of the defendants who can’t be named for legal reasons, said: “It was a dumb thing to do. We didn’t intend to burn the boat down.
“The kids at the skate park do it and it just normally goes out.
“We tried to stamp it out but we grabbed our scooters and ran. It spread around the boat and just went up in flames.”
All three youths pleaded not guilty to the charges of arson.
Prosecuting, Emma Harris, said: “What I have to suggest is you do know that wood burns, and by taking this back inside the ship – it might cross your mind that it might.”
Witness Lucy Flemming was in the play park with her children when she saw the group of boys running out of the toilet block.
“They went underneath the pirate ship,” she told the court.
“One of the boys said ‘where is my lighter’ as he went running past.
“You could see it glow and the ship went up in moments. I’ve never seen fire move so fast.
“They had sheer panic on their faces.”
Mr Brotherton, defending said the terror on the boys’ faces showed they were not expecting the blaze. Stephen Collett, also defending, said: “The arson caused was to the tissue paper.
“The most shocking thing to me is the way in which the surface was constructed.
“It is amazing to find out this material burns so readily. There is no way they were expected to know that. We have to look at this through the eyes of the child.”
Presiding, magistrate Mr Paxman, said: “You should have known the consequences of your actions. The lesson is not to play with fire.
“Your lawyers have said because of your age you could not have foreseen the destruction of that boat. The floor of that ship was very flammable.”
All of the youths were found not guilty and cleared of the charges.