Ash Green school fire: CCTV shows teen accused of arson attack breaking into primary school before blaze

A teenager has gone on trial accused of carrying out a £4.5 million arson attack on a Calderdale primary school and setting fire to Mixenden library back in 2020.

By Court Reporter
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 4:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2022, 4:25 pm

Aaron Foster, now 19, is alleged to have caused £180,000 worth of damage when the library was set alight in August 2020 and is also accused of starting a blaze which engulfed classrooms at Ash Green Primary School's upper site in Mixenden on the evening of February 1 this year.

Foster, of Stanningley Road, Mixenden, has denied both arson charges, but a jury at Bradford Crown Court heard evidence from a woman who claimed that she had seen him smash a window at the library and climb in minutes before she saw flames flickering inside.

She alleged that after the alarms went off, Foster came out and followed her back to nearby garden where she said he was “laughing about what he had accomplished”.

The fire devastated Ash Green Primary School's upper site

The witness alleged that Foster had said he was after money in the library, but there wasn’t any and he had set the fire to get rid of his fingerprints.

She rejected suggestions from Foster’s solicitor advocate Andrew Walker that she had argued with Foster in the past and didn’t get on with him at the time.

The jury has heard that Foster claimed to have an alibi for the library arson attack and said the witness was making a malicious allegation against him.

During today’s (Thursday's) evidence, the jury was shown CCTV footage of Foster breaking into Ash Green Primary School on the evening of the blaze.

Police at the primary school after the blaze

Foster was captured on CCTV walking around the school using the torch function on his mobile phone and carrying a lit cigarette.

A subsequent fire investigation suggested that there had been three or four seats of fire.

Prosecutor Camille Morland alleged that the footage showed Foster going into classrooms in the Key Stage Two area and captured the moment the first fire was started.

The jury was told by Miss Morland in her opening address late yesterday (Wednesday) that at one point Foster himself phoned the emergency services saying he was “trapped” in the burning school building and this afternoon the recording of the call was played to the jury.

During the call, Foster said he had just come out of prison and his mates had suggested stealing iPads to get some money.

He claimed his mates had ditched him and the flames were all around him.

“All I can see is flames,” he told the control room operator.

“I’m in a hallway. All I can see is flames.”

Foster, who was given advice to cover his mouth with a jacket and stay close to the floor, said he couldn’t believe his mates had ditched him and he didn’t know why they had set the fire.

At one stage Foster described being “in the middle of it all” and said the fire was coming towards him, but eventually he was able to get to an area of the school away from the flames before finding his way out of the building.

Forster was subsequently arrested by police on suspicion of arson and later on suspicion of burglary.

In a prepared statement the next day Foster denied the arson, claiming others were responsible.

The trial continues.