- Thursday, 09 December 2021 17:23
A man who caused extensive damage to a Bristol nightclub as part of a campaign to prevent it and other venues from introducing Covid vaccine passports has been jailed for six years.
Owen Marshall, of Royate Hill, Bristol, set fire to a petrol soaked towel he’d posted through the letterbox of SWX two months after he hand delivered a letter in which he threatened to “burn” the venue.
The following day, on July 14, he was caught on CCTV delivering a letter to the home of Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees, in which he claimed responsibility for the arson attack and that he intended to it to be a warning to other venues.
On 28 July, the 29-year-old then threw a brick through the window of the Barley Mow pub on Barton Road – attached to the brick was a handwritten note claiming vaccine passports were a breach of human rights.
Then on 2 August, another Bristol nightclub, Lakota, received a handwritten letter in the post which threatened it would “sustain substantial damage like SWX” if it introduced Covid passports.
As part of the investigation into the offences, hundreds of hours of CCTV from the area around the Nelson Street nightclub was reviewed – with officers tracking the movements of a man seen starting the fire back to a shop on Fishponds Road, where he bought a box of matches.
The man was subsequently identified as Marshall following a public appeal and he was arrested.
Having denied responsibility for any offences, Marshall pleaded guilty to charges of arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered, criminal damage and making threats to cause criminal damage at a hearing at Bristol Crown Court in September.
He was then sentenced for the three offences at the same court today (Wednesday, 8 December).
Investigating officer PC David Stevenson said: “Owen Mashall’s actions were motivated by the completely misguided belief the venues he targeted were about to introduce Covid vaccine passports.
“His obsession with Covid restrictions ultimately led him to carrying out the extremely reckless attack on SWX and it is only through sheer luck no one was physically harmed.
“Staff had been at the venue just hours before and they could easily still have been inside when he used an accelerant to start the fire.
“More than 130 fire service personnel were also put at risk tackling the resulting blaze which took several hours to extinguish.”
He added: “The attack has had a devastating impact on the club and the three businesses based below it with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage and lost revenue caused.
“These were businesses which had all suffered as result of the pandemic and which were looking forward to serving their community once more only for their livelihoods to again be put in jeopardy.
“While Marshall has never explained his actions, I am pleased he ultimately accepted responsibility as it negated the need for a trial.”
Temporary Group Manager Gareth Lloyd led Avon Fire & Rescue Service response to the fire set by Marshall at a night club in Bristol earlier this year, on hearing the news of the sentencing, he said: “Marshall set a fire that destroyed a large proportion of a building in Bristol City Centre, putting people in serious danger and devastated the livelihoods of the business owners and businesses nearby.
"While I am pleased no one was injured during the blaze, the significant financial impact will have serious ongoing consequences.
“Tackling a large, intentional fire tied up a huge number of fire service resources for a significant amount of time. Over 130 firefighters and fire service personnel were involved in tackling the blaze and investigating the cause of ignition."