Pair face arson charges in court over Southwick bingo hall blaze

Two men charged with arson will go before a crown court after facing the claim they set light to a former bingo hall for the first time.

By Fiona Thompson
Wednesday, 17 July, 2019, 06:00

Paul Bell, 45, of Foundry Row in Coxhoe, and Terry Mcewan, 47, of Southend Road, Low Fell, Gateshead, are jointly charged relating to the blaze which burned down the former Savoy bingo hall on The Green in Southwick on the night of Friday, February 3, 2017.

The pair were told the case is so serious it must be heard before a judge.

Police at the scene of the blaze of the fire in the former Savoy bingo hall on The Green in Southwick.

Both are charged with arson with intent as to whether life was endangered and arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

A bench sitting at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court declined jurisdiction following representations from prosecutor Laura Lax that the case was indictable only.

They heard the building, belonging to NE30 Land Ltd, was destroyed by the fire, causing damage of an unknown value.

The Green was closed off to traffic as inquiries got underway into the fire in Southwick back in February 2017.

Both men, who only spoke to confirm their ages and addresses, were given unconditional bail and told to attend Newcastle Crown Court on the morning of Tuesday, August 13.

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Work has been carried out in recent months by Sunderland City Council to clear the prominent site of ironwork and rubble from the fire-hit site after efforts by its owner came to a halt after their initial start last year.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and Northumbria Police were called to the building blaze at 5.30pm, with the huge blaze causing the building’s roof to collapse inwards.

The clean up of the site began late last year, but was completed by Sunderland City Council when the project being led by the building's owner NE30 Land Ltd came to a halt.

Firefighters remained on the scene into the next day.

Part of the building had been used as an auction rooms, with the businessman in charge of the company in the process of moving out at the time of the incident.

The land remains on sale through Bradley Hall and is being marketed as a development site which could be “suitable for a variety of uses” with the advert highlighting with limited parking in the area it could “prove very popular as a local car park.”

Work was carried out to clear the rubble left behind by the blaze.