‘I’m a firestarter - a twisted firestarter’: Man who sent Kent restaurant up in to flames jailed for four years

18 April 2023, 21:56

The Margate pizza restaurant was victim to an arson attack October last year.
The Margate pizza restaurant was victim to an arson attack October last year. Picture: Facebook via Sam Castle

By Jenny Medlicott

A man who set fire to a Kent restaurant just days after it had a £20,000 refurbishment has been jailed for arson.

The man was seen funnelling pieces of cardboard into a small fire on the doorstop of the restaurant just days before the owner had planned a relaunch event to mark 10 years in business.

A police officer was criticised by a judge in court for walking past as the incident occurred and failing to check in with the man.

Lisa Richards' restaurant received a £20,000 refurbishment last October before it was sent up in flames just days later, leaving her devastated.

When the officer who did not intervene was questioned as to why, he said he thought the man "appeared to be warming himself by a small fire" and did not seem dangerous.

Andrew Miller, the man responsible for setting the restaurant alight, was arrested the same evening.

He was later found in custody unnervingly singing the lyrics "I’m a firestarter, a twisted firestarter", from The Prodigy’s 90s classic.

Miller was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court, where he received four years after he admitted to arson with recklessness as to whether life was endangered.

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The restaurant before it was set alight last October.
The restaurant before it was set alight last October. Picture: GB Pizza Co

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At the sentencing Judge Douglas Marks Moore said: "It is rather bizarre that the police had seen him on an earlier occasion, a man burning up cardboard, and did not stop to check.

"There were buildings nearby where people had to be evacuated; that in itself is the great danger of arson, that there could be significant loss of life or significant injury."

Ms Richards said hearing the information was "utterly staggering" and had left her "floored", as she still does not know whether she will be able to reopen the restaurant six months on from the incident.

"I’m struggling to find words as to how I’m feeling right now; kicked whilst down," she said.

"At present, we don’t know when we’ll have the keys back to our restaurant, and now this has completely winded us."

Posted by GB PIZZA CO Margate on Monday, October 10, 2022

Passerby David Lewis intervened the arsonist that evening, as he instructed him "you need to put that fire out" when he walked past the blaze in the middle of the night.

The defendant later ran away from the scene and Mr Lewis alerted the emergency services.

Ms Richards has been vocal about the impact it's had on her business, as she said: "My biggest reaction is what impact this will have on the livelihood and mental wellbeing of the people who work for me.

"This has totally destroyed months of work; I’m terrified about what will happen to my staff and myself.

"This is detrimental to my mental health, and even now I can feel I’m in shock and unable to process what happened."