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Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
'Suspicious' fire at paedophile's home
Paulsgrove Estate protest, Portsmouth
Paedophile fears have led to protests in Portsmouth
Police are investigating a suspicious fire at the home of a convicted paedophile.

The fire damaged the home of Roger Gardener, 56, who is awaiting sentencing for assaulting two girls aged 12 and 13.

Gwent Police said officers were called to a house in Blackwood with fire crews at 2300 BST on Thursday.

A spokesman confirmed they were treating the fire as suspicious.

Gardener was found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court earlier this month of indecently assaulting two young cadets from a St John's Ambulance group run by his wife.

The unemployed lorry driver was found guilty of attacking the girls who were aged 12 and 13 over a five-year period.

'Justified'

He had carried out the attacks while his wife Margaret, 52, was running the St John's Ambulance division, Cardiff Crown Court heard on 7 August.

The assaults came to light when one of the girls told friends what happened and later went to the police.

When the verdicts were read out, Mrs Gardener, an auxilliary nurse, blasted the verdict from the public gallery.

But Judge William Gaskell reassured the jury, that they were "wholly justified".

He said: "It is very difficult for relatives to accept what their spouses have done.

Sentence was pending

"It may well be that Mrs Gardener is wholly convinced of her husband's innocence - she hasn't heard all the evidence you have. On the evidence, you are wholly justified in your verdict."

The jury found Gardener not guilty of two charges of indecent assault against another girl.

He was ordered to register as a sex offender.

The judge, William Gaskell, adjourned the hearing for pre-sentence reports and Gardener had been released on bail pending his sentencing.

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