A disgruntled Marks & Spencer employee caused millions of pounds worth of damage when he set fire to the lingerie department of an Exeter store, a court heard.
Robin Woodward, 43, was accused of causing ‘extreme’ damage after sneaking into the building in the early hours of Saturday and setting garments alight.
Police and firefighters arrived at the scene around 4am, after concerned onlookers saw smoking billowing out of the building’s windows.
The cost of the fire, which caused damage to the building and ruined stock, before spreading to an adjacent H Samuel store, is estimated to run into the millions of pounds.
Exeter city centre manager John Harvey described the damage as ‘extreme’ after visiting the store late on Saturday. He told the Daily Mail: ‘Clearing it needs an amount of work. I am in close contact with M&S and working with the management team. I was given the chance to look inside at the damage.
‘The store is unlikely to open in the immediate future. The timescale of when it will reopen cannot be judged.
‘Clearly there is a lot of work to be done over the coming few days on assessing what to do next.
‘A lot of work has to be done to deliver a plan of action and that is in hand. I have been blown away by the team of managers and staff working tirelessly”.
The fire broke out on the first floor of the Marks & Spencer store. Internal sprinkler sytems were activated and flooded floors with water, which spilled through window vents onto the pavement outside.
Woodward, who is understood to be the key holder of the store, had his case adjourned by magistrates until March 4.