08:00 Tuesday 07 January 2014

Councillor apologises for tweet over alleged arson threat

Written byMARK MCKAY

A COMMUNITY leader has apologised after he said a man who allegedly threatened to torch himself should be billed for wasting emergency services’ time.

Conor Wileman, who represents Burton Tower Division on Staffordshire County Council, told the Mail he was ‘appalled’ after re-reading his post about 50-year-old Michael Kelly.

It is claimed Kelly, of Calais Road, Burton, made the threat after pouring petrol over himself in the Forester’s Arms pub, in Horninglow Road, on Saturday.

Mr Wileman told the Mail he apologised to Kelly and his family for any offence caused.

He said: “If I could turn back the clock I would. The biggest thing to me is to send out my thoughts to the family involved.

“If there are any issues involved then I hope he can get the help he needs.

“When I read it back I was appalled - it did not sound good.”

Mr Wileman said his tweet calling for Kelly to be billed ‘only applied if alcohol was the sole cause’.

But he added he would not stand down as councillor despite calls to do so from the Burton branch of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union.

The drama unfolded on Saturday afternoon when emergency services closed the road, evacuated houses and police negotiators were called in during a three-hour standoff in the pub.

Landlord of the Forester’s Arms Michael Longeran, 38, told the Mail he sat and spoke with Kelly for about 20 minutes before the police arrived.

Mr Lonergan, who has been in charge of the pub for six weeks, said: “It was not something you would expect to happen but this is the Forester’s Arms so if anything crazy is going to happen it will happen here.”

Lee Jackson, 48, who was evacuated from his home next to the pub, said: “Our house is connected to the pub so if that went up our house would go up.”

Kelly is due to appear at Stafford Crown Court on January 27 charged with possessing a knife in a public place and two counts of arson with intent to endanger life.

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