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Bill Smith jailed after setting fire to a caravan at Five Kilns site in Stockbury

By Paul Hooper

A man who torched a caravan in a family feud has been jailed for seven years and four months.

Bill Smith, 53, set fire to the mobile home at Five Kilns site off the A249 in Stockbury Valley, Stockbury, after pouring petrol through a window.

Four people who had been inside managed to escape unhurt as the caravan burned to the ground during what a judge described as a night of “bedlam”.

Smoke rising from the A249 fire. Picture Tori Russon
Smoke rising from the A249 fire. Picture Tori Russon

Smith, of Miller Close, Kemsley, admitted reckless arson and violent disorder on the second day of a proposed trial at Maidstone Crown Court.

Smith had faced more serious arson charges but the prosecution formerly offered no evidence and judicial not guilty verdicts were recorded.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said the dispute between two sides of the Smith family turned into “violent mayhem” in May last year.

Smith senior took petrol from his van and poured it through a broken caravan window after his son William Smith jnr had been injured during the punch up.

“Things quickly escalated into compete bedlam..." Judge Griffith-Jones

The court heard how “bad blood” between the two sides spilled over into a planned fist fight between the two sides.

The court heard how victims Brian Smith Snr, Mary Matthews, Wester Smith and Paige Taylor managed to escape unhurt, while the static caravan was "razed to the ground".

Eli Smith, 22, of Lewis Close, Faversham, had admitted violent disorder and Smith Jnr, 29, also known as Billy Boy, admitted affray.

Prosecutor Oliver Dunkin said: “No effort was made to stop them escaping from the premises.”

Judge Griffith-Jones said the events had “slowly escalated into complete bedlam with cars being rammed and a mobile caravan damaged”.

He added: “This incident arose out of a premeditated plan to engage in violent behaviour of one form or another.

“Things quickly escalated into compete bedlam. You were the leader of your side of the family and you should bear much of the responsibility of what happened.

“On any view, your actions were disgraceful and highly dangerous as there were gas bottles attached to the caravan.

“The risks to life are self-evident. There was a pregnant woman inside the caravan at the time.

“I am prepared to accept that the arson was to some extent impulsive but it was nevertheless calculated and malicious.”

"You were the leader of your side of the family and you should bear much of the responsibility of what happened..."Judge Griffith-Jones

Gordon Carse, defending, said the purpose was for the caravan occupants to leave the property, not to injure.

He handed the judge testimonials describing Smith as being “kind, well liked, respected and a loving family man".

At an earlier hearing Eli Smith, 22, of Lewis Close, Faversham, admitted violent disorder and William Smith Jnr, 29, admitted affray.

Eli Smith, 23, was sentenced to two years and nine months for violent disorder and Bill Smith Jnr, to 19 months for affray.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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