AN ARSONIST who torched the café where he worked causing £26,000 worth of damage has been jailed for more than two years.

Samuel Millington, 25, stole money from his employers at Butters Café in Andover High Street before setting fire to the building in the early hours of Sunday, 4 December, 2016.

Owners Stuart and Debbie Blake awoke to the news that day that their business was in flames.

They arrived at the scene shortly after firefighters had put out the blaze, which started inside the front door at around 1.45am.

No-one was hurt, but two bonsai trees were destroyed by the flames, which reached the top of the door frame.

Three windows were also damaged.

A group including the couple, their son Gary and other helpers worked until 7am to get the café open in time for breakfast.

Now Millington has been jailed for two years and two months and the couple say they are relieved the ordeal is over.

Mr Blake said: “To be honest it’s not about what he got. I wished it had never happened. We haven’t been in Andover long, we didn’t expect something like this.

“First of all we noticed money had gone missing but it was a hard one to pinpoint. We trust the people we employ, we never gave it a thought and then it just spiralled.

“I don’t know why he tried to burn down the café, we assumed it was because of the CCTV.

“Our concern though was, what if family was in there?

“Anybody could’ve gone back there to get something, he wouldn’t have known anybody was in there.

“It could’ve taken more than just our business, it could’ve taken other people’s livelihoods as well.

“We thank the person who called Andover fire station, as well as the firefighters for their help and of course the police.”

He added: “Just to put an end to this is quite nice.

“It’s been over a year, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, I don’t understand it. It never entered our heads that this would’ve happened. It has made things hard for us.

“People relied on us for wages so we had to open [after the fire]. We had no choice, we can’t afford to be closed. It was a really hard time for us and it was coming up to Christmas.

“It’s nice to have closure on it.”

Millington, of Pippin Grove, Appleshaw, admitted one count of arson and three counts of theft as an employee after stealing a total of £169.99 from the café between October and November 2016. 

He was jailed at Winchester Crown Court on Friday.