Crawley teenager appears in court accused of starting fire at mosque
By Chris Ballinger
A CRAWLEY teenager has appeared in court accused of setting fire to a mosque.
James Everley, 19, of Broadwood Rise, Broadfield, has pleaded not guilty to arson, in relation to a blaze at the Haywards Heath Mosque.
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He has also denied charges of theft and causing fear of unlawful violence.
Two other men, Josh Morris, 19, from Haywards Heath, and James Smith, 19, from Burgess Hill, have also been charged with the same offences.
All three appeared at Crawley Magistrates' Court on Monday, where Everley and Morris pleaded not guilty to all charges. Smith entered no pleas.
Prosecutor Dawn Walmsley told the court: "It is alleged that the defendants went into a petrol station and stole cannisters of paraffin before heading to the mosque where the fire brigade were later called to.
"A window was smashed at the mosque and an accelerant was thrown inside, which started a fire on a very expensive religious carpet.
"The person staying at the mosque overnight, to prepare for morning prayer, was awoken by the smoke alarm and managed to put out the fire with a bucket of water.
"This fire could have developed into a very serious incident with fatal consequences.
"The group were later stopped by police nearby smelling of petrol."
A 17-year-old boy, from Burgess Hill, arrested on suspicion of arson, theft and causing fear of unlawful violence in relation to the case has been bailed until March 29 pending further enquiries.
Police were called to the mosque, in Wivelsfield Road, Haywards Heath, at 2.08am on Sunday following a 999 call.
Chief Inspector Ed de la Rue, District Commander for Mid Sussex District, said: "Four males were arrested by officers in the area and we are working with the users of the mosque and local residents to offer them support."
Everley, Morris and Smith were remanded in custody, with a hearing to commit them to trial to be held on March 14.