Fire­works shop boss guilty of deaths

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

A BUSI­NESS owner has been con­victed of two man­slaugh­ter charges after a deadly blaze en­gulfed his shop which he had “rammed” full with fire­works.

Richard Pear­son, di­rec­tor of SP Fire­works, was found guilty of caus­ing the deaths of col­league Si­mon Hil­lier and cus­tomer Ste­wart Sta­ples in Oc­to­ber 2014. He will be sen­tenced on June 13. Mr Hil­lier, 41, and Mr Sta­ples, 57, both from Hed­nes­ford, died as a re­sult of in­hal­ing prod­ucts of com­bus­tion dur­ing the fierce fire at Pear­son’s busi­ness unit in Baswich, Stafford.

The 44-year-old de­fen­dant, of Holy­rood Close, Stafford, looked to the ground in the dock at Stafford Crown Court as he was found guilty of both charges of man­slaugh­ter by gross neg­li­gence.

Pear­son, who de­nied both charges, told jurors last week that he be­lieved the fire may have been started by a home-made fire­work, caus­ing an ex­plo­sion to “roll” from a stair­well across his shop.

The Crown al­leged that Pear­son was guilty of gross neg­li­gence in fail­ing to take rea­son­able care in the stor­ing and han­dling of ex­plo­sives in the run-up to the deaths.

Judge Michael Cham­bers QC said of Pear­son: “He has de­nied any re­spon­si­bil­ity for this in­ci­dent. He has shown no re­morse what­so­ever and he has blamed oth­ers which is an ag­gra­vat­ing fea­ture in this case.

“Any­one who looks after fire­works does so un­der an ex­tremely high duty of care.”

A state­ment re­leased on be­half of the Hil­lier fam­ily said: “It is hard to put into words how Si­mon’s death has af­fected us. As a small, closeknit fam­ily, it has left a mas­sive hole in our lives and our lives will never be the same gain.

“Thomas misses his dad dearly and the mem­o­ries that they shared were so short-lived.”

The state­ment added: “We all miss Si­mon and he is in our thoughts ev­ery day. It breaks our hearts that we will never see him again.”

The Sta­ples fam­ily also gave a state­ment after the ver­dict which read: “Ste­wart was a de­vout fam­ily man and a real gen­tle­man re­spected by ev­ery­one he met.

“He was sud­denly taken from his lov­ing fam­ily on Oc­to­ber 30, 2014. It has been a long and dif­fi­cult three-and-a-half years since his death and the case be­ing brought to trial. Th­ese years have seen our fam­ily strug­gle with pain and grief over the loss of Ste­wart. We have got the right ver­dict.”

The busi­ness owner was badly in­jured in the blaze and was not in­ter­viewed by po­lice un­til months after the in­ci­dent.

> Richard Pear­son of SP Fire­works

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