ARRESTED IN JERSEY WITH £50 OF HIS FATHER'S MONEY
A 14-YEAR-OLD boy was charged at a special sitting of Ammanford juvenile court on Monday with maliciously setting fire to the Amman Valley grammar school on June 28 and causing damage estimated at £3,000.
The boy, who pleaded guilty and elected to be tried summarily declined to consult a solicitor. He was sent to a remand centre in Cardiff to await a medical and probation officer's report.
He will appear before the same court on July 26.
Superintendent Meurig Thomas, prosecuting, revealed that the boy was arrested in Jersey on Saturday, after his father had reported him missing from home on Friday.
He had £50 of his father's money on him at the time.
Superintendent Thomas said the fire was detected by a milkman, Mr. Derrick Evans, of College Dairy, Derwydd, at 7.15 a.m. on June 28.
After Mr. Evans had raised the alarm, it was found that fires had been started in five different rooms at the school, and a gas tap had been left fully open in the zoology laboratory.
The fire in a stockroom had been started from outside, he said, and a window had been forced open and the fire started on the inside window sill of the room.
After inspecting the damaged building, Supt, Thomas said that he came to the conclusion that the fires had been a deliberate attempt to burn down the school. He also revealed that Carmarthenshire CID officers, working with members of the Regional Crime Squad from Swansea, had discovered a thumb print under the broken window of the stock room which could only have been caused by the person who started the fire.
As a result of this, and further extensive inquiries, the officers, under direction of Chief Det-Inspector Fred Jones, head of Carmarthenshire CID, decided to take the right thumb print of all the male pupils and staff at the school.
During this operation, the boy was alleged to have approached Det-sgt. Roy Davies, who was engaged in taking the prints and said “I have cut my right thumb, sir.” The thumb was covered with adhesive plaster at the time.
When he told Det-sgt. Davies later that his thumb was better the print was taken and sent away for comparison.
At 11 p.m. on Friday, his father called at Ammanford police station to say that his son was missing from home, having last been seen when he went to school that morning.
The father also reported that the boy had £50 in his possession. Later a report showed that the boy's thumb print matched that the print found beneath the stockroom window.
Following a report from the Jersey police that the boy had arrived there on Saturday morning, arrangements were made for Det-sgt. Roy Davies to go to the island to interview him in connection with the fire.
At first he denied the offence and when told that his thumb print matched that of the print found under the window, he said “Yes, I went to look there after seeing the account in the Western Mail.”
After further questioning, the boy admitted the offence and said: “It was me who put the school on fire ….. I went out of the bed in the middle of the night. I had five matches. My father and my mother and brother didn't know I had gone.”
He then described starting the fires in the building and said “I put the gas tap on in the laboratory. I thought this would help to burn the school.” He also said he had not planned previously to burn the school.”
“I was asleep and when I woke up I decided to do it.” He said. After being brought back to Ammanford from Jersey on Monday morning, he said: “I had no reason to do it, and I didn't do it intentionally “
He also said this in court and said he could not account for his action. At this point, Supt. Thomas said the magistrates might want to make the boy's name public in view of the gravity of the charge and the fact that 350 male pupils at the school had been under suspicion.
He revealed that insurance assessors had estimated the damage caused to be in the region of £3,000. The boy's father, who accompanied him in court, described his son as “a good boy,” and “good at home.”
“I think we were great friends, at least I thought so,” he added.
Asked by the chairman, Mr. Rufus Jenkins, if the boy was worried about examinations, he replied: “That must be the reason, but I offered him that he could leave school when he was 15,” he said.
In reply to Mr. Rufus Jenkins, Supt. Thomas disclosed that the boy ran away from home last year with the intention of leaving the country, for he had a passport in his possession when found.
A local minister of religion also gave evidence on behalf of the boy who he said “hardly missed Sunday school, and he comes regularly to Thursday night meeting as well.”