Fireworks shop boss guilty of deaths
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