Belfast Telegraph

Prison for man behind fire at former Belfast Telegraph building

A man who broke into the former Belfast Telegraph building and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage after starting a fire has been handed a 22-month sentence
A man who broke into the former Belfast Telegraph building and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage after starting a fire has been handed a 22-month sentence

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man who broke into the former Belfast Telegraph building and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage after starting a fire has been handed a 22-month sentence.

Christian Stefan Topiter (33), who is originally from Romania and who was homeless at the time, was told by Judge Patricia Smyth that he will spend half his sentence in prison, followed by 11 months on supervised licence.

Sentencing Topiter at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Smyth told him: "Very significant damage was caused by you and suffered by the owners of that building."

Topiter, from Parkmore, Craigavon, pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and arson following his arrest at an immigration detention centre in Glasgow where he was awaiting deportation.

Judge Smyth heard that on February 21, 2018, Topiter "sneaked into" the building on Belfast's Royal Avenue after workers had left for the evening.

Prosecution lawyer Philip Henry said that for around four hours, CCTV recorded the defendant "roaming around the building wearing a backpack".

It also showed him starting a fire at around 9.30pm.

The prosecutor said that Topiter smashed a window and cut himself leaving the building and that DNA recovered matched his.

Extensive damage was caused to the building - currently owned by Belfast City Council - with the most recent assessment amounting to around £279,000.

Mr Henry revealed a further £51,000 worth of damage was caused to Digital Catapult's first floor technology hub.

A barrister for Topiter said it was "highly likely" he will be deported after his sentence.

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