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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 15:09 GMT
Group admits Burns monument fire
Kilmarnock Sheriff Court
Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, where the case was heard
A group of young men have admitted starting a fire which destroyed a landmark monument to Robert Burns.

Kenneth Butler, Andrew Kinloch and James Stirling lit a fire to keep warm after climbing into the building during a drinking session in Kilmarnock.

Two firemen were seriously injured when the derelict 126-year-old, A-listed building in Kay Park collapsed.

The trio had left the fire going, wrongly assuming it would burn out. Restoration work cost 4m.

Butler, 19, Kinloch, 17, and Stirling, 23, got in through a ground floor window which had been boarded up but was insecure, Kilmarnock Sheriff Court heard.

Jason Bell, prosecuting, said it was a cold night and they made a fire on the first floor using wooden debris they found lying around.

It's clear there was no intention to burn the monument down
Jason Bell

By the time they were leaving the fire had died down, although some embers were still glowing.

A taxi driver spotted smoke and flames coming from the building hours later and although firefighters arrived quickly, the structure was well alight and could not be saved.

Two firemen were badly hurt when masonry and debris fell on them as it collapsed. The blaze took more than two hours to bring under control.

Phone tip-off

Police received a phone call two days later naming the three friends as the fire-raisers. They were arrested and all admitted being there, but insisted the fire was dying down when they left.

"It's clear there was no intention to burn the monument down," Mr Bell said, adding that the 4m cost was based on restoring the building to an acceptable standard.

"At the time of the fire it was in a poor state of repair and had been left derelict."

The three men, all from Ayrshire, admitted culpably and recklessly setting fire to wood and paper and causing the blaze.

They were freed on bail for sentencing next month after background reports have been compiled.

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