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Explosion 'left accused with burns'.

A man with facial burns and smelling strongly of petrol was arrested just three minutes after an explosion ripped through three shops in the Black Country, a court heard yesterday.

The skin on Alan Harris's face was red and peeling, caused by flash burns after he started the fire, said John Attwood, prosecuting.

He told Wolverhampton Crown Court the 32-year-old's hair was singed and his trousers were also scorched - 'powerful evidence' he had been caught in an explosion.

Harris, of Dawson Square, Bilston, has denied arson, and arson and being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Mr Attwood alleged Harris caused the 'very dangerous explosion' when he started the fire at a wallpaper shop in Bilston High Street and it quickly spread to the adjoining properties.

'He deliberately set the fire and the ensuing explosion caused very great risk to anyone nearby and to the emergency services, ' said Mr Attwood.

Harris, who had been spotted earlier that evening near the wallpaper shop, was seen by police moments after the explosion and there was 'significant' evidence he had caused the fire.

When questioned by police after his arrest, Harris said he had been assaulted by someone who threw something like ammonia at him and that had caused the facial burns, but 'that was nonsence,' Mr Attwood said.

The trial continues.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 22, 2002
Words:220
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