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West Hampstead shop gutted by fire after prank by tipsy staff

PUBLISHED: 15:16 02 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 07 September 2010

TWO tipsy West Hampstead bike shop workers left their bosses with a £400,000 bill after a prank went drastically wrong, a court heard. Ezra Sprules, 41, and assistant manager Rafaela Schneider, 26, thought they had put out the flames after setting fire to

TWO tipsy West Hampstead bike shop workers left their bosses with a £400,000 bill after a prank went drastically wrong, a court heard.

Ezra Sprules, 41, and assistant manager Rafaela Schneider, 26, thought they had put out the flames after setting fire to a cardboard box 'for a laugh' after hours, jurors were told.

But the smouldering litter re-ignited after they left and a blaze tore through the basement and ground floor of Cycle Surgery on West End Lane.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard how bicycles and business records were lost while residents in the flats above were evacuated.

Gino Connor, prosecuting, told the jury there was no malice but the pair had been 'reckless' when they played with fire on the evening of January 17 last year.

The prosecutor said they thought they would create some smoke for the manager to discover the following morning.

Sprules put the flames out and dragged the cardboard packaging to the kitchen to be thrown out later.

They left the shop and the next thing they heard was the property had been virtually gutted by fire, causing more than £400,000 in damage to stock and the interior.

The court heard police arrived on the scene to find several fire engines already there. The trial continues.


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