A drunk, vindictive British groom who held a cigarette lighter to curtains for two or three minutes to set his wedding reception castle on fire last year has been sentenced to six years in prison.
Max Kay, 37, had earlier admitted to torching the drawing room of Peckforton Castle Hotel in Cheshire, right over the bridal suite where his new wife slept, after a fight over the bar bill.
“Having been made bankrupt, you embarked upon a wedding that would involve paying a figure of approximately £25,000 ($39,000) for a ceremony you could nowhere near afford,” Judge Roger Dutton said in court Wednesday in sentencing Kay.
“In the end you sought, and achieved, revenge against the proprietors of Peckforton Castle.”
Chris Naylor, managing director of the 19th century castle listed as an important heritage building, told the Toronto Star the fire department in court “showed a DVD of how difficult it was to ignite the curtains. It took two or three minutes, holding the naked flame to the curtains.
“You’ve got to remember the curtains were five metres tall, it had a lot of energy once it started.”
No one was injured but 70 family and friends, some still in gowns and others in pajamas and blankets, found themselves on the castle lawn at 5 a.m. on June 19 as 20 fire engines from around northern England and Wales poured water on the blaze.
Among them, his wife who had to cough up the final payment for the reception the day before the wedding, when Kay couldn’t pay the bill.
“I believe it was announced in court they have already separated,” Naylor said.
“Mr. Kay’s reckless actions put the lives of his family, friends, hotel staff and firefighters at considerable risk,” Cheshire fire officer in charge Keith Brooks told the court.
The $9 million fire gutted the main drawing room, library and bar of the castle as well as several upstairs bedrooms, including the bridal suite. The restoration took eight months, Naylor said.
Kay, a Liverpool property developer, had demanded the castle extend the bar tab past 10 p.m. but staff, aware of the difficulties of getting him to pay his bills, refused. Court heard he had downed 20 double vodkas at his wedding reception.
Cheshire Detective Const. Jo Gooddy told the court that around 3 a.m.: “Max was heard by witnesses to say ‘nobody crosses Max’ and that the manager who stopped his tab was ‘going to get it.’”
He was also captured on surveillance video walking into the drawing room shortly before the fire started at 4:45 a.m.
“Six years is what I would have expected” as a sentence, Naylor said. “It was a relief to have it over with.”