Parents shame at arsonist

DRINKING too much and loutish bravado was behind an Ipswich teenager torching his former school, the boy's parents revealed today.Speaking exclusively to The Evening Star the mother and father of 18-year-old Ashley Norman said they were “ashamed” and “embarrassed” of their son's actions.

DRINKING too much and loutish bravado was behind an Ipswich teenager torching his former school, the boy's parents revealed today.

Speaking exclusively to The Evening Star the mother and father of 18-year-old Ashley Norman said they were “ashamed” and “embarrassed” of their son's actions.

However they said there was another side to him besides his booze-fuelled destructive streak and they are prepared to stand by him as he faces the prospect of a long stint behind bars.

Norman, of Clifford Road, Ipswich, pleaded guilty at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday to an arson attack at Copleston High School on August 27 last year.

The damage cost hundreds of thousands to repair.

Dozens of firefighters were sent to the scene to fight one of the biggest fires seen in Ipswich for years.

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His parents, who did not wish to be named, said their son would have to pay the price for his actions.

His mother said: “I'm proud of him that he has pleaded guilty but he has got to face the consequences.

“He has said sorry to me for what he has put us through but will not speak to us about what happened or why he did it because he wants to keep us out of it as much as possible.

“We were on holiday in Spain when it happened and the family didn't tell us about it until we got back into the country.

“My daughter told me Ashley had been arrested for the Copleston fire but I didn't even know what had happened at that stage.

“A friend had saved the papers for us because she thought we might want to read about it.

“I looked at the pictures of the damage that had been done but I couldn't bear to read about it.

“I felt ashamed and embarrassed.”

Norman had not been living at his parent's address prior to his arrest but his bail conditions forced him to return to their home between court appearances.

His mother said: “He was here for about eight or nine weeks but didn't admit anything to me.

“He said the less you know the better because then you won't need to keep going through it when people ask you questions.

“He's a good lad and doesn't cause us any bother at home, it is just when gets on the streets and has a drink it all goes wrong.

“You couldn't ask for a better kid at home.

“He would wash up and clean up.

“Everybody thought the world of him.”

Norman's mother said he was expelled from Copleston High School at the age of 14 and went on to attend Westbourne High School until leaving education at the age of 15.

She added that he has been in trouble with the law previously, mainly for criminal damage incidents.

She said: “He hated school but he hasn't said he had a grudge with anyone.

“I think it was just a stupid mistake that went wrong.

“He knows I am angry and upset about it but at the end of the day I am still his mother and I'll always be here for him.

“I hope this will change him for the better and make him realise he has got to get his life on track.”

Norman is likely to be sentenced in early July once the trial of a co-accused teenager has taken place.

WEBLINK

www.copleston.suffolk.sch.uk

Factfile

August 27, 2006: The school was set alight, damaging the staff room and science labs. A second fire was also started in the gym although this did less damage.

Ashley Norman was arrested soon after.

August 30: The school was well into the first phase of the clean-up operation. The central section of the school was cordoned off including the main upper and lower corridors.

September 5: Demolition work began on the fire damaged part of the school.

September 6: The first pupils returned to school. Start dates for some year groups were put back.

September 7: Temporary classrooms were delivered to assist with lessons at the beginning of term. Demolition work had programme has progressed well with the unsafe front facade of the burnt out section of the school removed leaving the steel skeleton intact.

September 12: Work started to remove all the burnt material from the internal parts of the building, particularly the seat of the fire in what remained of the staff rooms and science classrooms.

September 26: All debris had been removed and telephones and computer data links, badly disrupted by the fire, hadbeen repaired, replaced or re-routed.

October 5: Norman was charged with arson - he appeared at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court five days later.

January 26: Norman pleads guilty to arson. Behind the scenes work is going on to discuss the plan of the new school building.

Suffolk County Council's architects are currently drawing up detailed plans showing the proposed internal layout.

It is hoped that the formal planning approval process for the new building will commence in shortly.

Source: Copleston High School/ Evening Star archives.

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